Another year, another CBA All-Star weekend that was okay but still probably wasn’t going to make anyone sit up and take notice. Indeed, with Chinese audiences more interested in the country’s soccer team making it three wins in a row in the Asian Cup, the CBA was in the shadows despite basketball being the traditional winter sport of the Middle Kingdom. This though was probably for the best given that for the neutrals and casual fans, the same flaws were still present and correct; naff dunk contest, crappy uniforms and more than a few empty seats in chilly Beijing.
Anyway, the most important takeaway from the whole weekend is that MICHAEL BEASLEY SCORED 59 POINTS AND WAS THE GAME’S MVP. That news again; Michael Beasley broke the CBA All-Star scoring record and in some style; step back treys, coast-to-coast dunks, alley-oops. Lovely stuff. Highlights below (obviously) but I’m still not sure if this sort of Beas related activity is good or bad for the reputation of the largest basketball league in South-East Asia. Actually, who am I kidding; its fucking great.
Obviously with Beasley switching into beast mode, there were precious few moments for the other All-Star participants in what was an easy 142-123 win for the South. Defense was obviously at a minimum but there were some nice moments, particularly when Guo Ailun had the ball in his hands and was dishing out lobs for the North’s big men to throw down. Han Dejun also looked pretty tidy and having written off the center as a wasted talent who should be in the NBA by now, suddenly it looks like the Flying Pig may actually be a big deal in the upcoming play-offs (for which his Liaoning team will surely have the top seed). Moreover, Andray Blatche was allowed to do his thing, including a Globetrotter-esqe dribble that tied up Zhu Fangyu completely. He also high-fived a line of cheerleaders. I assume when you’re making $2.5 million for five months worth of basketball, every day probably feels like that.
For the South, it was mostly Beasley running wild but Will Bynum did managed to tee up Yi Jianlian for a nice alley-oop but that was it. Ultimately though, the most telling thing other than 59 point haul was the deafening silence in the arena as everyone focused on the Asian Cup. Obviously the CBA can’t be blamed for China’s soccer team being on a roll but this is another classic lack of foresight from the country’s basketball body. Beijing is one of the coldest places in China at this time of year and it was a big ask to fill an arena when people can watch a more competitive sports game in their living rooms rather than pay to see a glorified pick-up game that has a history of being badly organized.
As for the dunk contest, well that remains a running joke in the more self-aware circles of CBA fans and this year’s All-Star event was no different. Bayi’s half-decent rookie swingman Luo Kaiwan won the whole thing but it really wasn’t great. Allow me to explain.
Exhibit A: Chang Lin (Jiangsu Dragons)
Chang, who briefly played D1 ball with Long Beach State and had a career high of 2 points against UC Irvine (taste the pain, Anteaters!), is now doing pretty well for Jiangsu, averaging 14.9 points per game. That said, the Dragons’ front office should be fining Chang the second he returns to Nanjing after this awful effort. Fujian’s Zhao Tailong is basically brought out to curl up into the fetal position and get dunked over. Everyone should be ashamed of themselves here.
Exhibit B: Heng Yifeng (Jiangsu Dragons)
Another Dragons player?! Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea for the roster of one of China’s oldest teams to embarrass themselves on national television? Someone was clearly drunk when this all got approved. Maybe I’m not seeing something here but all Heng seems to do is take a massive run-up before laying down a run-of-mill dunk and nearly careening into an advertisement board. Listen, 1980’s-era Dominique Wilkins doesn’t need to wake up at night sensing a disturbance in the force, but if you’re going to enter a dunk contest, at least make sure you can do something vaguely interesting.
Eventually Luo, the winner of the contest, threw down a pretty saucy windmill dunk on his way to the crown but once again it still wasn’t the best of editions. Thankfully no-one jumped over a dumpling this year but equally, no-one is going to be bouncing any proverbial grandchildren on their knee, talking about the time they saw Chang Lin jump over a three-foot obstacle. It’s a little awkward to say it but maybe there should be a hiatus on this event until proper dunkers can be found.
So overall, the All-Star weekend was just about okay; some decent moments throughout but it’s still a little too heavy on the underwhelming stuff. The whole thing feels stale and beholden to the NBA, which is always going to be the style that the CBA has to model itself after. An NBA-crazed local audience won’t accept anything less but at the same time, this means the CBA has to get real about the product it is putting on the court. Someone at the league office needs to say ‘fuck it, let the Americans have all the slots in the dunk contest’. Said CBA official might also ideally remark, ‘lets also only have it in Guangzhou because it is hot in the winter over there. People might fly in to see the game there because no-one’s going to go to cold-as-balls Beijing’.
Obviously they won’t and this means I will just probably cut and past this review in time for the 2016 CBA All-Star weekend. In the meantime though, Michael Beasley scored 59 points in an All-Star game and if that doesn’t warm your heart, you have no soul.