Can sports be the key to strengthen diplomatic ties between sovereign states? According to Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, the so-called "basketball diplomacy" may very well be the solution for increased mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese and American citizens.

Like music and art, sports transcend various boundaries, and the Chinese Vice Premier believes it plays a significant role in people-to-people exchanges, particularly China-U.S. ties.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Sunday called for more "basketball diplomacy" activities to strengthen mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.

Liu made the appeal during a visit to NBA basketball team Houston Rockets' home field Toyota Center, where a group of Chinese student athletes from Tsinghua High School are working on a basketball training program.

She said sports are an important part in people-to-people exchanges, which have played a unique and significant role in China-U.S. ties.

Alibaba is hoping to re-create March Madness in November. The Chinese online shopping giant is teaming up with top leagues in the National Collegiate Athletic Association to stream the first regular-season games played in the country online. 

Orlando Magic interim coach James Borrego will become a bit of an experimental gym rat when he visits Havana for a three-day trip that begins on Thursday. He doesn't speak much Spanish. He doesn't know much about Cuba. Never been, in fact. Not sure if he's ever experienced the taste sensation known as a mojito. But he knows basketball. And he knows about the power of sports to be able to bridge cultures and political ideologies.

An hour before Game 4 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James was talking about the World Cup. A couple of Brazilian journalists nodded excitedly as he spoke, perhaps in part because soccer’s signature event is being hosted in their futbol-mad country. Chinese journalists were there as well, logging every word that James was saying because of his enormous following in their homeland.

He can still dunk like a butterfly, but in the personally tragic case of former basketball pro Dennis Rodman in North Korea, the embrace of Kim Jong Un and his policies sting like a bee. Rodman is the most recent example of sports diplomacy gone awry. With the Sochi Olympics starting, a new cadre of unpredictable athlete diplomats will likely take the stage.

Sports diplomacy is often presented as a slam dunk approach for building relations across political divides. Last week veteran NBA star Dennis Rodman took a shot at “basketball diplomacy” in North Korea and showed how professed good intentions can go afoul. It also demonstrated the deft role of the media as the tables turned on the NBA players following a confrontational interview between Rodman and CNN New Day anchor Chris Cuomo. The NBA players not only lost control of the ball but became the ball on CNN’s court.

Dennis Rodman’s latest attempt at “Basketball Diplomacy” has officials in the U.S. government and the National Basketball Association (NBA) calling for the cancellation of an exhibition match scheduled to coincide with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s 31st birthday.