The CBA might be done for a while but it doesn’t mean that basketball in China stops completely until September when teams start bringing in overseas players for the upcoming season and also embarking on preseason tours. Obviously there is the largely irrelevant spectacle of the National Basketball League, which is basically a poorly run summer league involving teams from backwater third-tier cities, but this year there will also be the National Games in which every province in China competes to be the best basketball region in the country.
Basically imagine an NCAA tournament where all fifty states take on one-another crossed with Australian Rugby League’s State of Origin and you’ll have a decent idea of what the National Games are in basketball-crazy China. Held every four years, on paper, the rules state that players who born in that area are eligible to play for a certain province. What this means is that Shanghainese-born Ge Yong or Liu Wei can play for Shanghai but their Sharks’ teammate Zhang Zhaoxu (who is from Shandong) cannot.
Right now, it is unclear who exactly will be turning out for Shanghai exactly but a former Shark, Li Gen will be one of them. Li, who is currently with the Beijing Ducks was previously with his hometown team until for three seasons until he moved north to Qingdao in 2009and quickly became the Eagles’ best Chinese player. The swingman also posted notice of his range from downtown by winning last August’s Nike Festival of Sport three-point contest, where he beat among others; LeBron James, Paul George, Tyreke Evans and Amar’e Stoudemire.
One of the reasons that much of Shanghai’s team (like most provinces in China) remains TBC is the horse trading that will take place in the build up to the games. Players can technically turn out for provinces that they aren’t from as long as there is agreement between the region he is from and where he’ll play (hence the urban legend of Zhang Qingpeng being traded to the Xinjiang Tigers from Liaoning Jaguars to allow the latter to get several Xinjiang players to play for Liaoning in that years National Games). Basically, don’t rule out the possibility of seeing someone who can’t speak the Shanghainese dialect suiting up for the world’s biggest city.
Moreover, whether other well known local players like Liu Wei also sign up and fight for civic pride remains a mystery but Shanghai’s chances are clearly boasted by the return of Li, who can be a very solid wing player when he gets going.
More details on the Shanghai team when they come.