City commissioner watches Miami Heat game — in China

Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff skipped a City Commission meeting last week to sit courtside at a Heat game.

Not just any Heat game. A Heat game in China.

Sarnoff accompanied the championship team to Beijing, where they played a preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday. Sarnoff said he was invited because he helped broker the deal that landed the Heat in Asia.

It all started last year, when Sarnoff met with Shanghai Sports Bureau Director Li Yuyi. Yuyi had traveled to Miami in hopes of convincing the Heat to schedule a game in China, Sarnoff said. When he had no luck with team executives, he stopped by City Hall.

“It turns out, this was a very powerful person in China,” Sarnoff said. “I brought him over to the Heat arena and sat him down with (business operations president) Eric Woolworth.”

The Heat liked the idea of expanding the brand in Asia.

Sarnoff also had plans to meet with Chinese sports officials to discuss similar deals for other Miami sports franchises. “We’re going to talk about bringing the Dolphins over there,” he said.

He also will travel to Shanghai with the team for a second game later this week. Sarnoff said the Heat paid for his flight and hotel. But he does not plan to report the trip as a gift, he said, because he had official duties as a Miami commissioner while overseas. Heat media relations director Tim Donovan, who was also in China, did not return an email seeking comment.