The National Basketball Association has suffered "substantial" losses after a team executive posted an online comment that messed up their relations with China, the NBA's head has revealed. 

Houston Rockets' manager tweeted earlier this month showing support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The repercussions of that proved to be severe on NBA as the Chinese firms suspended sponsorship and broadcast deals.

The state-run broadcaster CCTV and Tencent Holdings, which streams NBA matches in China, announced they would not telecast Rockets' matches anymore. It is not just the Chinese Basketball Association that suspended co-operation with the Houston Rockets but also Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning, and the club's sponsor in China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

"The financial consequences have been and may continue to be, fairly dramatic. The losses have already been substantial," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

"Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we'll see what happens next," he told Time magazine's Time 100 Health Summit in New York," Silver added. 

The NBA suffered a ferocious backlash in China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests on Twitter The NBA suffered a ferocious backlash in China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests on Twitter Photo: AFP / HECTOR RETAMAL

Rockets' manager, Daryl Morey's tweet was captioned "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong." That led to the counterblast in China, and reportedly the Chinese government got in touch with the NBA head to sack Morey. 

However, Silver defended Morey saying he has his right to express his opinion.

"We were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business. We said there's no chance that's happening. There's no chance we'll even discipline him. The values of the NBA - the American values, we are an American business - travel with us wherever we go. And one of those values is free expression," Silver added.

According to the NBA, basketball is the most popular sport in China as around 300 million people play the game. The NBA has been present in the country since 1992 when they opened their first office in Hong Kong. Moreover, until the tweet, the Houston Rockets were easily the most popular side in China after they had roped in Chinese player and eight-time NBA All-Star Yao Ming in 2002.

According to Forbes, NBA China, which was launched in 2008, conducts the league's business in the country and is now worth more than $4 billion.