Wait, Exactly How Old Is Zhou Qi?


After months of speculation, Zhou Qi, China’s most hyped young player since Yi Jianlian, is going to make a run at the upcoming NBA draft.

This should not be much of a surprise for those who have followed the nineteen year old’s short career. After exploding onto the scene with a 28 point, 27 rebound, 15 block triple double during a U-16 international tournament in 2011, Zhou eventually turned pro with the Xinjiang Tigers in 2014 and led the CBA in rejections as a rookie. Having repeated the feat in his sophomore year, it seemed natural to test the NBA waters given that his stock is red-hot and the 2016 Draft appears weaker than 2017. The groundswell of support for Zhou is such that even Xinjiang, the team who own his contract rights, have reluctantly agreed to let him put his name on the board.

But what is muting the excitement is a familiar theme to Chinese basketball fans– namely that there could be an major issue with Zhou’s age. 

Concerns about the actual birthdates of high level Chinese players have been around for decades and local journalists will openly tell you that age shaving is endemic. Indeed, as Sports Law Blog pointed out in 2007;

[According to] Xinhua, China’s national news agency […] birth certificates and ID cards could be forged to register for a U-18 competition and some players even went as far as to adopt a new name. A senior Chinese Basketball Association official, Zhang Xiong, admitted that age fraud was a problem and that past youth squads had indeed included overage players.

Within the domestic league, making players younger has also been an ongoing problem. Back in the 1990’s, Wang Zhizhi, the first “can’t miss” mainland prospectyi-jianlian-age-report-card, was directly told by his Chinese team to lie about his age (and as a result, had his date of birth altered by two years). Meanwhile, Yi Jianlian has always refused to discuss reports that he was born in 1984 rather than 1987, even after images of an incriminating student ID (right) began circulating the internet. As a result, a stubborn dance has developed, with some sports websites like Sina Sports towing the party line (remarkably, so does both the English-language and Mandarin versions of wikipedia) whilst everyone else openly quotes Yi’s 1984 birthdate.

But whereas Yi got rumbled after he was drafted into the NBA, rumors about Zhou’s age have been floating around Chinese hoop forums for years. Depending on what claims you buy into, Zhou is alleged to have been born as early as 1992 (as opposed to his supposed DOB of 1996). Obviously a lot of this is rumor mongering from a hoops community that is used to athletes lying about their age. It should also be noted that Zhou enjoyed a somewhat controversial exit from Liaoning before he signed with Xinjiang. It goes without saying that there are some who want to see him fail after an acrimonious exit from the team that developed him.

However, it doesn’t help Zhou that a couple of odd details keep coming up. Some reports have suggested Zhou was accepted into a formal basketball school in 2005. This would have meant Zhou was nine years old but most boys could not have entered those kind of schools until they were thirteen or older. Other media outlets have since qualified that story and added he got a personal coach as he was too young to enter a basketball school but it remains unclear which version is correct. Another issue relates to Zhou measuring 7″1 as a fifteen year old in the 2011 schoolboy tournament. To put Zhou’s remarkable height into context, he was taller than both Wang Zhizhi (6″11) and Yao Ming (7″0) at the same age but has barely grown since then. By contrast, Wang grew another two inches whilst Yao added a further six.

It is important to stress that no-one at Shark Fin Hoops is alleging Zhou is fiddling his age. Unlike both Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian, no-one has been able to produce birth certificates or ID that lists an alternative DOB to Zhou’s current age. At this point, there is nothing that contradicts the current birthdate attached to the big man.

But at the same time, considering that this story has been floating around for the entirety of his brief career and that some NBA scouts are suggesting Zhou might be as many as four years older than he claims to be, it would be remiss not to address the issue. At the CBA level, Zhou is a first-tier talent and his sophomore season’s stat line of 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks suggests he can be an impactful player in China for years. But in the NBA, he represents a raw project— and the difference between being 20 and 24 will be a huge factor as to whether an NBA GM decides to pull the trigger on draft night. Because of this, Zhou’s age will remain a factor in the build-up to the draft and the longer it goes unresolved, the bigger the elephant in the room becomes.

4 thoughts on “Wait, Exactly How Old Is Zhou Qi?

  1. It is unfortunate that this will remain a thing until it’s not (the irony is that faking ID is actually a very serious crime in China… until the government tells you to do it!). but Zhou at least looks the part of a 20 year old. (where as Yi was already very mature looking when drafted. as was Yao and Wang.)

    But yes, him being so tall already when he showed up at 15 is scary, but at the end of the day all 7 footers in the world are anomalies to begin with. and some kids do start and stop growing sooner . so it’s really hard to prove or disprove anything.

    I feel that we are overthinking this a bit too much though, his draft slots at the later first or even early second IMHO basically assumes he’s 24. if teams know he’s definitely 20 he’d be talked about in the teens in most likelihood.

    Even if he’s 24, he’s still a historically long human being who actually runs like an athlete and possess real basketball skill and feel, that alone should still be a pretty useful rotation player who might be really impactful, even if it’s more like a 15-20 min guy. if that’s the floor for someone your taking past pick 20 (or even pick 10 if we’re being honest.), every GM will sign up for that and then some.

    And as you noted, with the way he left Liaoning, if they had real dirt on him they have plenty of incentive to let it out already.

    We’ll see, at the end of the day he’s not going to go top 10 or something, so it’s always a gamble anyway, what matters is him being able to make it in the league, I’m more optimistic about him than Yi really (his role is already much closer to what he would do in the NBA. where as Yi in China was in a role he could never really pull off in the US.) and really, good defenders will always find a way onto the floor unless they are utterly unplayable on offense (and we know Zhou is not that.)

    1. I think these are all salient points. Sharper minds than my own has expressed concern with elements of his defensive skillset but as a rim protector, he is pretty unique and some GM is going to take a gamble. The age issue will obviously alter how high he’ll go but I agree he can justify getting on the floor. The biggest issue will be the expectations placed on him to do crazy things right off the bat– he’ll need a couple of years to get used to the league (and that is obviously where the difference between being 20 and 24 is going to come in) but ultimately, I hope he makes it.

  2. Also to add some more info for you. as i did a bit more reading on this


    This is from 2011 in your article, where the news noted Zhou was 215 cm. (which is actually more 7 feet and 1/2 inch. than 7’1.) we don’t know if this is in shoes or barefoot though. he’s also listed as 218 cm now and measured 7’1 1/2 barefooted so he did grown since then,even in the most pessimistic assessment that the 215cm was barefoot. it could easily be that the 215 was in shoes and then things would look a lot more normal.

    However, this is also not the first report of Zhou we have .


    THIS is . which is from 2009, when he was just 13. at that point he was already listed at an amazing 205 cm (almost 6’9).

    The Article also clearly stated that he was 13 . and the picture provided Zhou’s face certainly look the part of a 13 year old (granted. that’s hardly an exact science as well.)

    So if he changed his age, it happened at least 7 years ago, since then the stories have been pretty consistent.

    We should also note that in 2008 the CBA had a major crack down on fake age and 20+ players changed their birthdays as a result. the irony is that basketball and football is where they are now cracking down the hardest on these issues and thus it also gets exposed more. where as Gymnastics is probably the biggest mine field.

    OTOH, LiaoNing is a province where age faking is pretty notorious , so there’s that concern.

    The 2nd generation ID card was suppose to solve this issue, but then Yi still happened 2 years after that (but before the CBA’s massive crack down on age. however the CBA hasn’t reverted Yi’s age back either, so that’s another major concern.)

    HOWEVER, we should also note that this is very hard to hide now these days especially for high profile players, with the commercialization of media and explosion of the internet, if there’s real dirt out there it’s very unlikely that Zhou’s secret can be hidden for long, and he has been famous for quite a while already. Yi had reporters that went to his home town and dug up his school records and such. I find it doubtful that Zhou hasn’t had people done that to him as well already and if they had something they could easily sell that news for a good sum. in China football rival players / interest groups spill beans on players all the time, and Zhou certainly doesn’t lack people gunning for him.

    I don’t know, I believe if there’s truth to this story someone should have come up with solid evidence by now. they had like 5 years to do it already.

Leave a Reply to The Forgotten Man Of Chinese Hoops: Why Wang Zhelin’s Wasted Potential Can Still Be Redeemed – Shark Fin Hoops Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s