Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming may be best known for his on-court exploits, but he’s now facing a challenge of a very different sort as he looks to reform Chinese basketball. In a Chinese sports version of Bannon vs. Kushner, the big man is battling “the establishment” in order to gain influence behind the scenes. But the obstacles he’s facing may be so entrenched that the entire sports industry in China is affected.
Rumors started to circle earlier this year that Yao Ming would be appointed as the new head of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), and despite resistance in certain quarters – including this editorial from state-run news agency Xinhua which called him too young and too inexperienced [link in Chinese] – he seemed the obvious candidate.
Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin become first Chinese players drafted for nine years, but both face an uphill battle to play in the NBA.
A year ago, ice hockey player Song Andong was touted as China’s next big sporting star after being drafted by the NHL’s New York Islanders, then swiftly promoted as one of the faces of China’s 2022 Winter Olympic Games bid campaign. This spring, it is the turn of two Chinese basketball players, Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin, who were drafted by the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.
Stephon Marbury could be in line for a second statue in Beijing. Having missed most of the season through injury, he has inspired the Beijing Ducks in the CBA playoffs, leading them into a finals showdown against the Xinjiang Flying Tigers after a 3-2 series win against the Guangdong Southern Tigers.