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After brawl-marred playoffs, everyone in the NBL has been suspended

The UFC isn’t supposed to hit China until November 10th, but for those living inside ZG who just can’t wait that long to watch men pummel each other inside of a caged octagon, I invite you to keep an eye on the National Basketball League playoffs, where not one, but two all-out brawls went down inside of three days last Friday and Sunday.

Let’s start with the first one. With Changsha up 1-0 in their best-of-three first round series against Hebei, Game 2 was played in Hebei’s home city of Tangshan. An intense game the whole way, things blew up in the fourth quarter when a series of questionable calls went against the home squad. What happened next isn’t really clear, because there’s two different accounts in the media and there isn’t any video (that we know of) available online.

NetEase’s version says that after the game (Hebei ended up losing and in turn became eliminated from the playoffs), a group of fans rushed onto the court to chase and beat the refs before things spiraled out of control with both teams going full-out fisticuffs on each other. QQ Tencent’s report says the game was halted midway through the final quarter because after both benches cleared. During the exchange — which QQ says wasn’t particularly violent — fans started pelting the court with whatever they could get their hands on. Once the game was over, the crowd took a page out of the Shanxi Zhongyu Fan Conduct Handbook and attempted to block Changsha’s bus from leaving. They ultimately failed, however, once they were countered by armed police.

The CBA released their official report on Friday, which gives their own account on how everything went down. Turns out the two reports don’t conflict with each other; they’re actually just two separate chapters of the same crazy fan-player-referee-front office royal rumble.

The trouble started at 1:56 left in the game after a small group fans who were upset with the calls, started to throw things onto the court. The Henan ling dui, Ma Yuquan, (roughly translated as “team leader,” its essentially someone from the front office, usually the GM, who sits on the bench with the team) then pulled his team off the court and the game was stopped for two minutes. But once the game resumed, Ma further escalated the situation by heading over to the scorer’s table to yell and curse at the officials, which incited both his team and the crowd. At the conclusion of the game, Hebei player Sun Chunlei initiated a fight with opposing player, Sun Jian, hitting and punching him. A fight between both teams ensued and large amounts of debris were thrown onto the court by fans. Order was eventually restored, but a still enraged Ma Yuquan went back over to the scorer’s table to yell at, push and punch the lead official. He was shortly restrained by stadium workers and security, but his actions caused a few fans to rush onto the court and hit a secondary official, the latter of whom suffered minor injuries.

This photo was posted on Sun Jian’s Weibo account the day after the game.

Normally, it’d be tough to top anything like that. But then again, Chinese summer basketball isn’t really normal. Two nights later in DongGuan during Guangzhou Free Man’s Game 3 contest against Sichuan, the fists went flying again with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter. According to the official CBA report, with the game out of reach for Sichuan, head coach Jason Rabedeaux had already sat down his import, David Palmer, and had conceded the game. But for reasons unclear, Palmer and one of his teammates got into an argument with an opposing player, walked onto the court and came to blows. Three players from Guangzhou’s bench rushed over to join the fracas, water bottles were thrown, etc etc etc.

Here’s a video taken from a fan, which captures everything but the actual fight itself:

Summertime brawling on Chinese basketball courts shouldn’t surprise anybody. There’s already been at least one this year that has been documented by Western press among the few others that I’ve heard about on the Chinese summer basketball travel circuit that haven’t. And of course, we all know about Bayi-Georgetown. And heck, this isn’t even new stuff for the NBL or for Hebei for that matter, who experienced some player-fan violence last year as well.

But the suspensions that have been handed out by the CBA? Those are very new: Three years apiece for Hebei’s Sun Chunlei and Ma Yuquan, and for Sichuan’s David Palmer. In addition, Sichuan head coach, Jason Rabedeaux, has been suspended for a year for insufficiently controlling his team. Guangzhou’s Sun Jian was suspended 10 games as were several other players.

I don’t know what the CBA is trying to do here. The league has no recent history of levying multi-year suspensions and has given much lighter penalties for similar or even worse infractions. Is the NBL being used as an example to show the future consequences of brawling?  Or is this merely a short-term crackdown? Will CBA players and teams be held to the same standards once the season starts up in November? How can two players who were fighting each other — Sun Chunlei and Sun Jian — receive two vastly different suspension lengths? Why isn’t there any investigation being done into the officiating? Why was Rabedeaux suspended for a year was never even mentioned in the actual report? And how is he suspended for a year for insufficiently controlling his team? What does that even mean?

Don’t get me wrong — I want Chinese hoops to clean up their act and do away with violence. But I have a lot of questions that need answering before I jump on this bandwagon all fire and brimstone. As we all know though, in China, we won’t get any answers.


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  1. » China’s Latest Basketball Brawl Illustrates The Sad Difference Between The CBA And Its Second-Tier League Beijing Cream - July 12, 2012

    […] are currently happening, but they’re not happening very well. As Jon Pastuszek of NiuBBall reports, “I invite you to keep an eye on the NBL playoffs, where not one, but two all-out brawls went […]

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