With the Chinese Basketball Association starting on November 1st, basketball in the country is starting to slowly come back to life. By now teams have filled their rosters with free agents from both inside and outside of China and its now probably the best time to assess the quality of each of the twenty teams in the newly expanded league. This of course being China, fortunes can change very quickly for some organizations depending on the overseas players they brought in (or didn’t) and which local players managed to improve over the summer break. In the first of two segments, its time to look at the bottom half of the league based on the information that’s been available for much of the last couple of months. Continue reading
Matt Beyer is currently the only westerner who is licensed to work as a sports agent in China. His company, Altius Culture, which Beyer founded and for whom he is its’ managing director, remains a critical access point for many America players looking to play in the Chinese Basketball Association. He was also a color commentator on Chinese television for the 2014 NBA finals. Before arriving in China, he spent time with the Milwaukee Bucks as the chief translator with Yi Jianlian.
Despite the upcoming CBA season on the horizon, Yi Jianlian probably has other things on his mind. The current poster boy of Chinese basketball is a father for the first time (and presumably the only time under the country’s one-child policy) after his wife, Jing Ling gave birth to a son a couple of days ago. This would normally be a chance for celebration but instead a mini-scandal is underway in China about the identity of a child who is barely a week old.
The root of the trouble appears to be where the baby was born as Yi’s wife reportedly gave birth to their son in a hospital in Los Angeles. This is not uncommon and it is estimated that 10,000 children were born to Chinese parents in American hospitals in 2012. However, the costs of getting to that point; securing a visa, comfortable flights for a heavily pregnant woman and up to three months of private maternity care can cost upwards of $50,000, meaning that only the wealthy in China can go through this process.
More significantly though, US law also allows children born within its borders to become automatic citizens; a very attractive bonus for prospective Chinese parents. Yet China does not allow dual citizenship, meaning that those same parents must choose whether their child is technically American or from the mainland. Given the lengths it took to get the mother into America to give birth, the Chinese passport is almost never the one taken. Yi and Jing Ling, a former beauty queen turned model, are not the first prominent couple to go through this process but Yi’s status in China means that things have not be received well by people on the ground.
Since his return to China after retiring from the NBA, there arguably hasn’t been a more fascinating figure in Chinese basketball than Yao Ming (seen here towering over 7″3 center, Zhang Zhaoxu). As owner of the Shanghai Sharks, the team he bought in 2009, he has been given an opportunity to air his opinions on the state of the CBA. This, along with his massive popularity in China and abroad, has given him a unique platform to assert influence on Chinese basketball; something he has done in a very measured but noticeable way.
Indeed, the big man has shown himself to be a dab hand at maneuvering within the various state institutions that have reached out to him since his return to the mainland. Besides the CBA, Yao has been a part of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an essentially ceremonial body that is supposed to aid the Chinese Communist Party in drafting policy and laws. Yao though knows the game he is playing; the CPPCC need a famous face like his to give it legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese public and in exchange Yao has used it to promote his own special interests such as animal preservation and ivory poaching in Africa. His CPPCC involvement, plus his hands-on running of the Sharks (he attends every home game and has been known to supervise training), completing his final year of university studies and an ownership of a winery at a time when the Chinese middle class spends millions of dollars each year on expensive alcohol has led to the internet joke; ‘does Yao ever sleep?‘ Continue reading
League expansion is happening and Jiangsu Tongxi and the Chongqing Flying Dragons are set to become the newest additions to the CBA, bumping up the number of association members to twenty. It marks another big day for the Chinese Basketball Association, who after years of not altering the league’s format, made sweeping rule changes this summer and have added three teams in less than twelve months (the other team, the Sichuan Blue Whales were promoted last year).
On a short-term level, this will mean more playing opportunities for local players in China’s biggest league and in theory a stronger pool of talent for the national team to draw on. On a broader scale, it also says a lot about the CBA’s bullish new attitude to building up the league and having teams in as many large urban areas in the country as possible.
So it looks like it will be official. After a lot of speculation, the Chinese Basketball Association will once again change its rules about the participation of foreign players in the league as it looks to shift the emphasis of the league away from American hero ball and towards a style of play that will involve local players more often.
Previously, teams were allowed to play both its foreigners for a combined six quarters, typically meaning each split a quarter in the first half and then play for the whole of the second. Under new proposals that will be applied with immediate effect, there will only be one foreigner allowed to play for the fourth quarter. Both foreigners will be able to play but they will have to sub out for one-another. Continue reading
Zhu Fangyu, the all-time leading scorer in the Chinese Basketball Association and a cornerstone of his country’s national team is probably wishing he could stay in America indefinitely right now. The small forward, part of the Guangdong Tigers team that has won eight CBA titles in eleven years, is currently training stateside whilst back in China, a lurid scandal involving himself, his now ex-wife and a third woman continues to gain momentum.
Former Los Angeles Clipper big man Keith Closs played for the Yunnan Bulls during the 2008/09 CBA season, averaging 16.9ppg (whilst shooting nearly 60% from the floor) and 11.9 rpg. He would also lead the league in blocks with 5.9 per game. Now living in California, he talked to Shark Fin Hoops about his season in south-west China and playing for what was at the time one of the worst teams in the country.
Over in Yingkou, Liaoning Province, things are about to get very messy for the city’s beloved basketball team. FIBA, world basketball’s governing body, have finally had enough of the Chinese team’s intransigence regarding the non-payment of a former players’ wages. Not only have the Liaoning Jaguars refused to pay the player, former Texas A&M big man Chris Daniels, they also effectively gave the middle finger to FIBA by refusing to acknowledge its ruling that the Chinese team had to pay up. To say this is going to be a costly mistake would be an understatement; FIBA is riled up and ready for war whilst the CBA itself can only look on with it’s head in it’s hands.
Few owners in the CBA have given league administrators as many sleepless nights as Wang Xingquan. The personification of the Chinese ‘da laoban’ (‘big boss’), it seemed at times that Wang was actively looking for ways to piss people off. If the league could have put a hit out on him, they probably would have done.
Things though have been quiet for the last year. Having sold the ownership of his old team, the Shanxi Dragons, to a group of Chinese investors, Wang seemed destined to fade into obscurity and perhaps become a humorous aside from the old days of the CBA. However, those hopes appear to have been dashed if Sina Sport is to be believed; ‘The Chinese Cuban is Back!’, it thundered. To the presumed horror of league officials, Boss Wang has indeed resurfaced in his home province of Henan, busily establishing a team to compete in next year’s National Basketball League, essentially the second tier of Chinese basketball.