After they drafted Yao Ming in 2002, the Houston Rockets have developed a rather large following in China. The Rockets are one of the few teams that wear special Chinese New Year jerseys during the season and even have China-based advertisers buying ad space at the Toyota Center.
Because of their fan following in the country and the partnerships they have, the Rockets traveled to China to play an exhibition game against the New Orleans Pelicans in the preseason. While this was a joyous occasion as it gave Chinese fans the opportunity to see the Rockets play live, there was one incident that created a bit of tension between the team and the country.
When the team was visiting the Great Wall of China, reserve guard Bobby Brown wrote his name in chalk on the historic monument and shared the moment to his fans on Weibo. Writing on the Great Wall is strictly prohibited however, visitors are allowed to write their name in specific "graffiti zones." But Brown didn't write his name in a "graffiti zone" so as soon as he posted the picture, he was instantly criticized.
Brown later deleted his posting on Weibo and made an apology to China in a statement through the Rockets. From the Houston Chronicle:
"We were out enjoying the Great Wall. I never been, it was my first time. I wrote my name on the wall in chalk. I saw different writings - I didn't mean any harm by it. I made a mistake. I could have just put my hand over it and erased it. It will never happen again. I've been playing in China for three years now and I have the utmost respect for the Chinese culture, and the way of living here. I pretty much adapted, coming from the states, here for three years. My teammates, the fans in Shenzhen and the fans all over were great to me, and I just want to sincerely apologize for that."
Now Brown likely didn't know writing on the Great Wall was prohibited, but he should've been able to ascertain that on his own pretty easily. Mistakes happen, of course, but Brown's mistake had the potential to negatively affect the NBA's and the Rockets' relationship with China. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.