In what has been a crazy Finals that saw players fight in the streets with fans, the potential suspension of the championship series itself and journalists sob at press conferences, an underdog Sichuan Blue Whale roster surprised many basketball observers by overcoming a stronger, deeper and more experienced Liaoning team.
The key was Hamed Haddadi, who averaged 21.6 points and 19.2 rebounds on his way to the Finals MVP crown. Back in November, I predicted he could be a huge factor in winning a title so I’m feeling pretty smug right now, but it will be the center himself that will have the biggest grin of all.
So in a special moment for Chinese basketball, Haddadi– who is not the most popular guy in the league because of his chippy style of play– got a send-off that is rarely seen outside of a Hollywood screenplay. Because of rules about foreign players, the beloved center has now probably played his last game for Sichuan but still gets to walk off into the sunset as a CBA champion.
Yet before he walked down the player’s tunnel for the final time, a visibly emotional Haddadi suddenly walked up into the packed stands of Sichuan’s arena and gave an impromptu victory speech over the PA system. Its a great photo and one that hopefully can define this Finals after all the anarchy that has preceded it.