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Tag Archives: Georgetown Hoyas

Road to the Olympics: Wang Zhizhi

July 25, 2012


As the Chinese men’s basketball team enters the last stage of preparation for the 2012 London Olympics, it is a sad fact that there are not many definitive profiles of these players, let alone ones in the English language. In this light, let us present you a series dedicated to giving a backstory to the players that will no doubt shine on the world’s biggest stage. After profiling Liu Wei last week, we go to the ageless seven foot lefty with the killer footwork and sweet stroke from downtown, Wang Zhizhi.

Name: Wang Zhizhi (王治郅)
Height: 7’1’’ (214 cm)
Weight:  275 pounds (125 kg)
Position: Center
Team: Bayi Rockets

The first Chinese athlete to play in the NBA, the cornerstone of a Bayi Rockets dynasty, a star for the national team since before this century started, and the one whose ban from the team and subsequent reconciliation with officials sparked a great deal of controversy. Suffice to say, Wang Zhizhi has been around for quite a while. A living legend of Chinese basketball, Da Zhi’s legend will grow this July and August as the seven footer will continue to play a great role for Team China in the 2012 London Olympics.

Wang’s journey started all the way back in 1977, when he was born in Beijing to two basketball athlete parents. Standing 6’9 at the age of 14, Wang was recruited by the People’s Liberation Army into the Bayi Rockets. Subject to harsh training, with practice hours sometimes extending to eight hours, Wang was forced to undergo massive lifestyle changes, with even his birthdate moved up to 1979 to allow him to dominate youth competitions. He was awarded places on several Chinese select teams, including the awkwardly named and roughly translated Youth Special Height Team, Chinese Youth National Team, and then the senior Bayi team.

No matter where in the world he went, the crafty center impressed with his nimble footwork, often confusing opponents with a spin and finish with his left hand. He was named the best center in Greece’s Youth Basketball Championships, then went on to deliver a solid performance, including a memorable block on David Robinson, in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics that earned him six scholarship offers from US schools and a Nike endorsement. Though Wang garnered interest from such high profile schools as Georgetown and LSU, Wang ultimately stayed in China due to the sensitivities involved in letting a PLA soldier and key basketball player go the States for four years. Instead, he returned to Bayi for the inaugural CBA season, catalyzing a dynasty that would run to six CBA championships and a league MVP. He seemed destined for a run of unrivaled dominance, entering the start of his prime by averaging 26.3 points and 11.7 rebounds in the 2000-01 season.

Dallas Mavericks owner H. Ross Perot Jr., though, had a different plan in mind.

Notoriously stingy about giving up their players to foreign organizations, Wang’s materials had to be smuggled to the Mavericks and Perot, who wished to draft the first Chinese player ever and thus make history. With the 36th pick of the 1999 NBA draft, and to the surprise of all involved, Wang Zhizhi was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. The People’s Liberation Army would loath to let go of its prized center, and only when its hand was forced as China’s bid to host the Beijing Olympics was put to a final vote did it allow Wang to play in the NBA. With just ten games left in the season, Wang was able to fit in quickly as a role player, recording 4.8 points and 1.4 rebounds. Wang made the playoff roster; then, duty called, and Wang returned to China, Bayi and the National Team. China won gold at the Asian Championship, Bayi was crowned the champion of the National Games, and Wang played an unmistakable leading role on both teams.

But as his contract in the NBA expired, he began making a series of decisions that would endanger his position in China.

Wang, hoping to participate in the NBA Summer League to work on his game, moved to Los Angeles, leaving little behind in China. Chinese officials urged him to return to the country to practice, as various national team tournaments were on the horizon. But his constant refusals followed by rumors that he was planning on defecting to the US gave the team — and army officials — much to worry about.

PLA officers met him one month later in America, with Wang laying down an ultimatum: he would play in the World Championship, but would not disrupt his season for the the third-tier Asian Games, a relatively unimportant continental tournament. This did not go over well, and Wang was banned from the National Team on October 9th. Shortly after, he served short stints with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat, but was unable to find consistent playing time. By the end of 2005, the center did not have a team to play for, and after an expulsion of four years, finally returned to his homeland, attempting to make amends for what amounted to betrayal in the Army’s eyes.

The good soldier was forced to attend “self-criticism” meetings, becoming politically “reeducated”, and published a three-page letter of apology. Returning to the army, he remarked, “It feels sacred to be in an army uniform again”. With the 2008 Beijing Olympics fast approaching, the Chinese government took a more lenient stance towards Wang, and “Dodger,” his American nickname, came full circle when he led China to first place in the Asian Championships with the other side of “The Walking Great Wall,” Yao Ming, out of the lineup. Wang found himself as the undoubted leader and mentor of a suddenly youthful and inexperienced Bayi team, yet found a way to win another CBA title and a Finals MVP in 2007.

Wang’s strong play still holds up today, and in 2012 was a CBA All-Star team starter. He is very much still a major contributor to the national team, winning yet another Asia Games in 2010 with critical plays against Iran, Korea and Qatar. After the game, his 11 teammates draped their medals around his neck, bowing in respect; Wang returned the favor by splitting his championship purse with them.

Fun Facts: the talented lefty started a camp to develop lefties like himself; his favorite car is the Lincoln Navigator; he loves to eat large Texas steaks and enjoys listening to Britney Spears; he enjoys watching movies and tried his hand at film himself, hosting a tourism show on Beijing; former CBA slam dunk champion; and he loves collecting rare china, jade, and metals.

Here’s hoping Wang comes home from London with what will amount to the most valuable metal of them all.

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UCLA Bruins to tour China this summer

May 8, 2012

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The UCLA men’s basketball team will follow in the footsteps of Duke and Georgetown by embarking on a basketball tour in August in preparation for the 2012 season.

The Bruins, members of the powerhouse Pac-12 conference, are the first team to travel to China under the conference’s initiative to expand its brand into the Asian market.

“UCLA will represent the Pac-12 and plant a flag for the conference,” said Pac-12 commissioner, Larry Scott. “We expect this to be an annual basketball trip by our schools, playing future collegiate teams and the Chinese national team.”

Although it’s unclear where and against whom UCLA will play, Scott indicated that they will play the “equivalent of NCAA competition.” Duke played the Chinese U-23 Olympic National Team in Shanghai and Beijing last year.

UCLA is the most successful collegiate basketball program in America, having won a record 11 national championships in addition to 25 Final Four appearances. However, their team hasn’t had as much success in recent seasons and went 19-14 in 2011 en route to missing the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in eight seasons.

But that looks to be changing. UCLA secured the number one recruiting class in the country this spring and Chinese fans will have the opportunity to gawk at incoming freshman Shabbazz Muhammad, who is widely considered as next year’s top overall pick in the NBA Draft.

Last summer, Georgetown’s summer tour of China made international headlines after the team got into a violent, bench-clearing brawl with the Bayi Rockets, who play professionally in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Follow Edward Bothfeld on Twitter @bothfeef

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CBA officials to crack down on arguing, excessive body language in 2011-12

November 17, 2011

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Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and more are on the list of NBA players who have brought their trade to China this season. And now, China is bringing a list of NBA rules to match.

In an effort clean up ongoing issues of in-game violence, over-the-top on-court behavior and the overall quality of officiating, the powers that be atop the Chinese Basketball Association are instituting a new set of strict “iron rules” that will go into affect this season.

According to the document, which was released to the public on November 10th, the league is instituting these set of rules in order to “cut down on exaggerated gestures, going up to the referee and pretending to count money and the other little tricks players and coaches use when they are dissatisfied with a referee.”

On paper, at least in my eyes, the rules are eerily similar to the ones David Stern tried to implement at the beginning of the 2010-11 season in order to put a stop to “overt” player reactions to calls. But unlike the NBA in 2010, who focused solely on players, the CBA is extending their reach to coaches, translators and even trainers in an attempt to clean the league of what it perceives as referee abuse.

Starting this season, there will be stricter regulations coaches’ interactions with officials. Demonstrative behavior like throwing and kicking things are not allowed. Going to the scorer’s table to argue a call is not allowed. Yelling “travel” or “three seconds” from the bench and discussing a call in a manner that disrupts an official’s rhythm are also not allowed. Translators are not allowed to stand up alongside their English speaking coaches for too long.

On a first offense, referees will dish out a warning and the second time will be a technical foul. If a trainer somehow finds a way to get two technical fouls, then they are automatically transferred over to the head coach, who would then be ejected.

There is also a lengthy list of rules regarding player behavior.

Like their coaches on the sidelines, warnings will first be given to players who use demonstrative, flamboyant body language when protesting calls. Technical fouls will be dished out for repeat offenders. Insulting gestures like pretending to count money (which suggests that a referee is being paid by the other team), throwing up the middle finger and pointing to a ref’s face will result in direct technical fouls.

The league is also putting in rules to stop flopping, a problem that has only increased in severity over the years. Players will receive a warning for a flop if there’s body-to-body contact and a technical for a second offense. If there’s no body contact and the player flops — which in my mind should just be called the Derek Fisher rule — a player will be T’d up directly.

Fighting, an issue that has become a major black eye for the league the past year, received its own section. To prevent the all out brawls that have become popular on Chinese basketball courts in recent years, all players who leave the bench area and walk onto the court will be automatically suspended. The only people allowed on the court to break up altercations are coaches, referees and arena security guards.

The words “zero tolerance” have been used in several Chinese articles when describing how referees will enforce these new rules.

Here’s my take: Nice try, CBA, but if you think that this is going to put an end to referee controversies and unqualified refs running up and down the court, you need to think again. Although players and coaches deserve some of the blame for the CBA turning into a nightly soap opera, the main problem with the league is a systematic one that lies directly on the shoulders of the CBA its referees.

Referee quality needs to be improved. Last year, 35 out of 342 registered CBA officials were of international level, a ratio that should be unacceptable at the league office in Beijing. As history as shown, specifically this summer, Chinese refs do a horrible job of maintaining control during intense, physical games. The best example of that inability of course, was the Georgetown – Bayi fight. But that wasn’t the only one this summer — Foshan got into it with a traveling Australian team and Jiangsu nearly came to blows with an American team. Every fight follows the same pattern — physical play, which goes uncalled by refs, quickly escalates into retaliatory cheap shots and soon, you have angry and frustrated players who eventually come to the conclusion that fighting is the only way to protect themselves.

That’s not to say I’m not in favor of some of the things they’re doing. Instituting a rule banning bench players from entering the court is a move they should have made years ago, but it’s one that should be welcome, no matter how late it’s come. But relying on babyfaced 16 year-old bao’an‘s to restore on-court order? There’s probably a better chance of Barack Obama and Wen Jiabao lacing them up for a game of one-on-one.

But none of those issues are going to be addressed because admitting that there is a systematic problem with referees, who act as representatives of the league, would be akin to admitting there is a systematic problem with the league. And since policy is directed top-down, publicly announcing this fatal flaw would result in a loss of face for the people who direct policy, CBA officials. And under the current government-run system, that’s not happening.

To sugarcoat their new zero tolerance policy, the CBA has been sending international level Chinese officials around the country to talk to teams and answer questions about the new rules for this season. I’m not fooled, though. As someone who’s been around the league — and China — for a while, I don’t see any of this making a major dent in the real problems that afflict this league.

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Monday Morning Jianbing

October 24, 2011

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 Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…

  • If you haven’t already noticed, we’ve added a “CBA Teams” tab on the menu bar at the top of the home page. You can now see the logo, the city, the sponsor and the name for each of the 17 teams in the league this year, as well as how many championships each team has won. That means two things: You now know how lopsided the balance of power in this league has been, and two you no excuse not to spell everything right when you write about the CBA this season on your own site. And we figure, given all of the NBA guys who will be playing here this season, there will be an awful lot of China coverage this season. So please — for us — take the extra time to look at the page.
  • Georgetown Hoyas head coach, John Thompson III, on his teams’ highly publicized fight with the Bayi Rockets: “Going through that experience, I do think that has helped expedite the coming-together process of this team because, quite literally, they realized you have to have each other’s back.”
  • This is just really strange.
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The ugly side of Chinese hoops rears its head again… twice

October 22, 2011


On Tuesday and Wednesday, two separate teams from the Chinese Basketball Association were involved in bench clearing on-court altercations. (Photo courtesy of Sina Sports)

Chinese Basketball Association pre-season should be a time to enjoy import rumors, special clauses made up seemingly on-the-fly, and the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons’ annual hold out.  Just call it some of the charms that come with watching Chinese hoops year round.

But this week, Chinese hoops has jutted out its well-documented ugly side for all to see again. And not just once, but twice.

On Tuesday, what started as a pre-season match between the Guangdong Foshan Dralions and an All-Star team visiting from Australia turned into a violent bench-clearing chair-throwing brawl that had obvious simiarities to the one that went down last August between the Bayi Rockets and the Georgetown Hoyas.

The video below was taken by a Chinese fan who was sitting in the stadium’s upper section:

Within hours, the CBA announced that Foshan would be prohibited from playing and practicing for a week. The team will also have to write self-reviews which will be sent into CBA administration for review. Three players in all were fined for their involvement in the fight. He Ben and Yang Wenbo, each of whom played big minutes for the team last year, were fined RMB 10,000 (about US $1587) and Zhao Lei, a reserve, was fined RMB 5,000 (US $793).

On Wednesday, just one day after the Foshan incident, it was reported that Jiangsu got into a major fight with a travelling All-Star team from Chicago (pictures). However, soon after reports hit the internet, Jiangsu general manger, Wang Min, went on his Weibo (Chinese twitter) account to set the record straight.

“People on the internet have been saying that [Jiangsu players] Yi Li and Meng Da were involved in a fight today. But, in fact that simply did not happen… both of them held up and controlled themselves.”

Wang was right — a video of the incident has since surfaced on online video sites that proves initial reports were exaggerated:

Still, the two events, especially the Foshan fight, will continue to swell the already large black eye on Chinese basketball. In addition to the high-profile brawl between Bayi and Georgetown, there have also been other widely reported on-court fights. Last year, the Chinese National Team and a Brazilian club team were engaged in a bench clearing melee after a Brazilian player set a highly questionable on-ball screen on China’s Zhang Qingpeng. Zhang hit the ground hard and was later diagnosed with a concussion. China received similar punishments to the ones Foshan were handed down.

But in the eyes of Chinese fans, those punishments aren’t severe enough. In a poll on, 68% blame the Foshan players for not being calm and 75% feel their punishment was too light.

Count us as one of the 75%. Suspending all games and practices will have no effect in preventing things like this from happening again. Because the root of this problem lies within Chinese refereeing. And that’s not to say the players aren’t to blame for charging out with fists and chairs, because they definitely are. But, blaming only them takes attention away from the people who are supposed to have full control the game, the refs.

I wasn’t at the game, but I didn’t have to be. I, like anyone else who has either watched games or played in them, knows that Chinese refs do a piss-poor job of managing games. On top of that, they cheat blatantly. Overly-physical play is allowed, cheap shots go uncalled and vexed, argumentative players and coaches aren’t reeled in and T’d up. What happens next is pretty easy to understand: Players get really frustrated and ultimately really angry that the laws of the game aren’t being held up, and play escalates until tempers get out of hand and a fight breaks out.

That all can be prevented — if refs blow their whistles more and put an end to dirty play and hard fouls. And yet, for some reason, Chinese refs consistently refuse to do that. Much is made about China’s poor system for developing youth players, but the system the CBA uses to train and approve in-game officials could use just as big of a remodeling.

Another thing that could use some remodeling? How about making a rule on players leaving the bench area? Fans of the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns may hate the rule, but it has completely shut down the potential for 12-on-12 mass brawls in the NBA. What once was a problem in the league now is not because players and coaches know if you leave the bench area, you’re going to be suspended and fined. The problem of bench players rushing onto the court is more serious in China, so make the penalties more severe — five games suspension for coming onto the court, plus a big fine. And then on top of that, subject them to the punishment almost all Chinese students who misbehave receive and force them to write “I will not leave the bench” 1,000 times neatly and legibly on a piece of paper.

Because after all, this is “basketball with Chinese characteristics.” And while we’re pretty open-minded about the differences of hoops between East and West, this simply has to stop.

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Tuesday Afternoon Jianbing

August 23, 2011

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Showing you that jianbing can be enjoyed 24 hours a day while keeping your day going with China’s favorite and most versatile street snack and a batch of links.


  • An easy tip for people who want to learn more about Chinese basketball: Read anything that Brook Larmer writes. Keeping that creed in mind, go over right now and read his take on the Georgetown- Bayi brawl he wrote for the Washington Post.
  • Amazing, but true: Thursday’s fight might not have been the worst on-court incident in China this summer. As we mentioned in yesterday’s post about all of the different factors that led up to both benches clearing, the National Basketball League, China’s second tier professional league, witnessed a scene where an American player, Justin Gray of Guangzhou FM, chucked a chair into the stands at a fan after the fan hurled two full water bottles at Gray’s girlfriend seated courtside during an on-court scuffle between his American teammate, Jartavious Henderson, and an opposing Chinese player.
  • Keane Shum, writing for SLAMonline, eschews making grand-scale sweeping conclusions about the fight to talk about the social consequences in both China and America: “But here’s what the historians and the experts don’t know about sports: they don’t know that the next time I want to go play some pickup ball in Beijing, I’m going to think twice about wearing the Hoyas t-shirt I bought the day I graduated from Georgetown, and that if I’m ever back in a Georgetown gym, I’m probably not going to wear some of the China gear I picked up at the Beijing Olympics. They don’t know that Chinese national basketball teams have in recent years gotten disturbingly thuggish; they have literally pulled some of the same chair-throwing and kick-em-while-they’re-down tactics against Puerto Rico, Brazil, and now Georgetown. And that in this day and age, Georgetown fans and American basketball players everywhere are going to point to the incontrovertible YouTube evidence of this and assume that most Chinese basketball players are cheap and dirty.”
  • Duke guard Andre Dawkins talks to about Duke’s three-game exhibition tour in China, which ended last night in Beijing with a win against the Chinese U-23 team. Interesting that he says the team came with the understanding that Chinese basketball is physical, but definitely not surprising — after all, Coach K played against China in the 2008 Olympics and is thus very familiar with the playing style here. Just wish he had given that memo to Georgetown…
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Why did Georgetown and Bayi fight?

August 22, 2011


NiuBBall’s slogan is “Basketball with Chinese characteristics.”

On Thursday night in Beijing, it beared its ugly face for the whole world to see when the Georgetown Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets engaged in a massive bench-clearing brawl midway through the fourth quarter of their exhibition game.

The big question of course is, why did this happen? It’s a question that cannot be answered simply — there is a lot that needs to be understood both about Chinese mentality, specifically towards foreigners, as well as the general Chinese on-court playing style and officiating. And then we need to put Georgetown into the equation, too.

To make it easier and more organized, we’ve posed general questions that we’ve received over the last few days and answered them in a way that will up to the million dollar of question of, how and why did this happen? First, let’s start with something easy:

Who was Georgetown playing?

The Hoyas were playing the Bayi Rockets, a professional team in the Chinese Basketball Association, which is China’s top professional basketball league.

Who are the Bayi Rockets?

Like we said, the Rockets are a professional basketball team in the Chinese Basketball Association. They are unlike any of the league’s other 16 teams because they represent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s military. Though they are far from gun-wielding, battlefield-charging soldiers, players are technically registered as such. Because of their affiliation with the Chinese military, they are not allowed to have any foreign players on their team.

If you think that would have an affect on the team’s success, think again. They are are the Boston Celtics and New York Yankees wrapped into one — before the CBA was established in 1996, the team had won a ludicrous 34 national championships. Once the professional league got rolling, Bayi rolled off six straight championships before finally losing to Yao Ming and the Shanghai Sharks in 2002. They’ve won two more titles since then, bringing their total number to eight.

Because of their storied history and all-Chinese roster, Bayi is arguably the most well-supported team nationally. They are lauded for their “Bayi spirit,” which, means as explained by veteran reporter for Basketball news China, Lin Kunyi, in the New York Times, “…you are tough, you eat bitterness and you don’t leave the court even if injured.” They are obviously a bunch that are very proud to be PLA and Chinese; important to keep in mind as we keep going.

Their most famous player is Wang Zhizhi, who became the first Chinese player to ever be drafted into the NBA when he was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in 1999, has spent his entire career with Bayi and still plays with the team today at the age of 32 (or whatever his real age is). Wang was not playing during the Georgetown game, however, because he is currently with the Chinese National Team in London.

Do on-court fights like this happen often in Chinese basketball?

They don’t happen infrequently. Both professional basketball and the Chinese Men’s National Team have been involved in a number of on-court fights the last few years. In October 2010, Team China got into a similarly nasty bench-clearing brawl against a Brazilian club team during a warm-up exhibition match for the Asian Games. In 2005, the team was engaged in an intense full-team fight against Puerto Rico after Yi Jianlian was fouled hard in the closing minutes of a game during the FIBA Stankovic Cup. In 2001, China and Lebanon had a major fight, too.

Professional basketball in China has also been marred by several on-court incidents. In 2009, Xinjiang Guanghui’s American forward, Charles Gaines, slapped Guangdong Hongyuan’s Du Feng the eff out during Game 2 of the CBA Finals. In 2008, Yunnan Bulls American forward, Gabe Muoneke, was attacked outside the locker room by several members of the Shanghai Sharks after their game was over, including National Team captain, Liu Wei, which came as a result of an on-court tussle with another Shanghai player. This season in the National Basketball League, China’s second tier professional league played in the summertime, saw a particularly nasty incident when Guangzhou FM’s American guard, threw a chair into the stands at fan after the fan reigned bottles at his courtside girlfriend during an on-court scuffle between the team’s other American import, Jartavious Henderson and a Chinese opponent.

Georgetown – Bayi was not an isolated incident.

Why have of these incidents involved either foreign teams or foreign players?

This is where the stone-cold facts end and opinion begins. Our opinion may be different than other people’s. But, since we’ve been living in China for over three and a half years (and naturally, playing and watching a lot of basketball, too), we think we’re entitled to have one.

Really, there’s two areas to really dive into here — the culture of Chinese basketball, and China’s history, government and other influences that shape that on-court culture. First, let’s get into the latter of the two, which in our opinion is key towards understanding the underlying beliefs and attitudes that may have shaped this particular incident.

From mid-19th century until 1949, when Mao Zedong founded the modern day People’s Republic of China and expelled every foreigner in sight, China suffered through what historians have dubbed “The Century of Humiliation,” the period of about one hundred years when the country was subjected to Japanese and Western imperialism. The effects of this period can still be felt today. The Century of Humiliation serves as the root of Chinese nationalism today, and it is something the Chinese Communist Party focuses heavily on to maintain support and stability within its borders. According to Liu Kang, a professor of Chinese cultural studies at Duke University, nationalism has probably “become the most powerful legitimating ideology” for the CCP post-1978, when Deng Xiaping re-opened China to the outside world.

As a result of the CCP’s reliance on nationalism to create Chinese unity, there exists a level of anger towards Western countries stemmed from a belief amongst some Chinese that China and its people are still stereotyped as weak and passive. To combat that thought, China must stand up to foreigners to reflect the strong and modern country it has become today.

That attitude that China needs to show its strength and ability to the foreign world is especially prevalent on the basketball court. Perhaps part of the reason can be explained by the education Chinese athletes’ receive. All of the domestic players who compose the CBA’s population, and the Chinese National Team as well, are products of China’s state-run sports system. Typically admitted into basketball academies from the ages of 11-14, children are taught hours upon hours upon hours of basketball, and hours upon hours upon hours of nationalistic propaganda. Remember: these are government run schools and since players are being housed, clothed, fed, trained and paid by the state, players are expected to be grateful to the system that raised them and to bring glory to China by winning on the court. Since national pride is built upon China’s history of being humiliated at the hands of foreigners, there is an especially large feeling amongst players when they play against foreign teams that they need to do anything they can to shed those Western stereotypes that label them as soft and passive.

Maybe it’s valid — when Yao Ming entered the league in 2002, a number of high-profile members of the media predicted that he’d be a bust, and when Yi Jianlian was working out for teams in the weeks leading up to the 2007 NBA, he was dubbed “Chairman Yi” by an especially influential member of the media. Maybe everyone had their own reasons — Yao was definitely a big unknown coming into the Draft and Yi probably deserved to be called out for not playing against other prospects — but, in China, many felt the two were being labeled negatively by Western press strictly because the two were Chinese.

So if you are an international team coming to China to play either against a college team, a professional team or the National Team, you need to know that the Chinese feel they have a huge foreign-placed chip on their shoulder, and they’re going to play extra hard as a result.

And, as we’ve seen in many situations, throw fists too, if they feel that’s what it takes to prove themselves.

So are Chinese teams specifically looking to fight foreign teams,?

No, I don’t think Chinese teams go into games looking to fight. But, I think they come into games prepared to fight if that’s what it takes to prove themselves as tough. And that mindset comes as a result of ingrained nationalistic sentiment based on China’s history of humiliation at the hands of foreigners.

Why do these fights happen, then?

This is where the on-court culture of Chinese basketball kicks in. The Chinese play a very physical brand of basketball. One reason why, as Sarah Kogod over at NBC Washington writes, is because some influential people in China, none bigger than big Yao himself, felt that the “non-contact style prevalent in the China Basketball Association was producing players who were not tough enough for the international game.” The result: An edict from the CBA to referees instructing them to essentially swallow their whistles and let teams destroy each other.

As one can imagine, the Chinese game has become a lot more physical, especially on the inside where body-contact is a staple. Four-year NBA vet, James Singleton, who played this last season with Xinjiang Guanghui, a dude known for being extremely physical down low, thought he was “gonna end up killing somebody” once training camp started after he went through a couple of practices with the team’s uber-physical big men. But as James and everyone figures out quickly when they start here, it’s not personal towards foreigners. That’s just the way they play.

But, when Chinese teams play against foreign teams — teams they feel they have to stand up extra tall to — they play a lot harder, which means they play a lot more physical. And in Bayi’s case, a CBA team that doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to play against foreign opponents in their home country, the desire to really give it their all against Georgetown maybe would have been greater than say, the National Team, who plays in international competitions all the time.

Yeah, but American teams play physical, too! Georgetown plays in the Big East, arguably the toughest conference in the country!

No argument from you on that one. But, the standards of what is deemed physical in China and in the States are quite different. And a lot of that has to do with the refereeing.

In the Big East, if you two-arm chuck somebody in the chest, you are going to be whistled for a foul. Same thing if you two-arm bear hug someone from behind on a rebound. Ditto for elbowing a dude in the chest. Etc, etc. In China, a lot of that isn’t called by design. So it’s very easy for foreign players to get really frustrated really quickly.

Well, fine. So the refs let them play here. But, come on — a 57 to 15 foul discrepancy? They’re only letting the Chinese play!

Referee bias is certainly another aspect that played into this incident. Beyond calling the game looser than their American counterparts, Chinese refs and the people who they report to think that any scenario that involves a Chinese team losing by 20 or 30 points a foreign team reflects poorly on the country. After all, does getting blown out send invoke an image of a strong China to the rest of the world? And does it create confidence within Chinese borders? So they often call more fouls against foreign opponents to keep the game close. I myself have played on several foreign basketball teams that have been the victim of brutally unfair refereeing designed to keep our Chinese opponents in the game. And yes, it’s frustrating as hell.

Plus, Chinese refs just aren’t very good to begin with. And it’s not just in international competition, but also in the CBA too. Chinese referees have a reputation for being poorly trained, under-qualified and corrupt, a toxic combination for anybody with a whistle hanging from their neck. Though they’ve never admitted corruption, the CBA readily admits it has a problem with the quality of officiating. To combat the problem, the league has hired foreign referees in recent years to stand in during the semi-finals and finals. It doesn’t solve the overall problem, however, since nothing is being done to train and develop high quality officials.

So why did things escalate into a bench-clearing, chair-throwing brawl? Don’t refs have any control over games?

They should have more control over games, but they don’t. In my opinion, the referees were the number one reason why this went down. On one end, you have Bayi playing what they think is globally accepted basketball, which in fact, by absolutely physically destroying Georgetown, they’re playing what many countries would label very dirty basketball.

On the other end, you have Georgetown, who is getting more and more frustrated until their emotions turn into anger by the fourth quarter. The Hoyas are a big-time NCAA program, a Big East team nonetheless — they’re not going to back down. And as Georgetown ups the intensity, so does Bayi, who feels that Georgetown is thinking these soft Chinese will just crack as the game gets tougher. So both teams are getting angrier and angrier with each other. And with no refs stepping in the middle to tide all of this rage building up, you get a very explosive situation.

The refs for sure should have gotten control of this game a lot sooner, especially considering that there were other smaller altercations earlier in the game, including one Bayi player going over to the Hoyas’ sideline to yell at Coach John Thompson III.

Instead, what happened by the fourth quarter was an understandably angry Jason Clark taking exception to what in essence was an attempted football tackle in the backcourt by Bayi center, Hu Ke. And after that — mayhem.

If you watch the video, its clear to see that Bayi rushes in with the intention to fight and not to break things up once Clark and Hu have their altercation. Is that common behavior? 

It’s not surprising to me that Bayi went all-in they way they did. The same thing happened last year in the Team China – Brazilian club team fight. In the States, when you step to someone, there is typically a moment where the players involved ask themselves: “Do I really want to do this?” Most of the time, the answer is no. There’s a lot to lose by fighting, like a suspension, a fine or both and not a whole lot to gain beyond maybe “proving” yourself as a man or a woman. Which in the end doesn’t really matter if you’re suspended or kicked off the team altogether.

When it’s China vs. The World, though, in the Chinese’s eyes there is everything to be lost by backing down from a fight. Running away from a physical confrontation makes the players as Chinese appear weak. That’s a stereotype they’re trying to disprove, remember?

So when the two stepped to each other, Bayi took that as their time to step up and fight. And when they fight, Chinese tend to have a nasty habit of ganging up guys and throwing chairs.

Where was security? Why were fans chucking stuff at the Georgetown players?

Welcome to the world of Chinese security. Known as bao an’s, Chinese security guards are nothing more than mall-cops. They are all over China — they guard apartment complexes, school entrances, office buildings, parking lots and whatever else people think needs guarding. They have little to no training in how to actually keep their post safe. I’m not surprised at all that they didn’t get involved.

As for the fans, bottle throwing is very typical behavior in these types of situations. So typical in fact, that the CBA has banned the in-stadium sale of concessions to prevent fans from hurling things at the court during fights or when they’re unsatisfied with corrupt officiating.

Is there anything that could have been done to prevent this?

In my mind, the blame mainly lies with the in-game officials. It was their job to manage and control this very emotionally volatile game, and they didn’t.

But I also have another opinion that may differ from a lot of other people’s. And it may be one that people disagree with.

Georgetown came here to China on a Goodwill Tour. I’m sure they weren’t expecting an intense basketball game from their Chinese opponent. Instead of being told what basketball is really like here in China for a visiting foreign team — really physical, really corrupt and really intense — they were figuring out how to use chopsticks and being briefed by the U.S. State Department on what it means to represent the United States abroad. They had no idea what they were getting into.

They also, as Gabe Muoneke explains in his amazing, must-read post on HoopsHype (I’m serious, read it) about the Liu Wei/Shanghai Sharks post-game fight we mentioned earlier, gave Bayi reason.

Look, I know what happened. I know the refereeing sucked. I know they were being cheated. I know they were being punked. And I know that they were essentially being physically manhandled. But, the thing is — this is what happens here. They should have known a bit better. And as much as I can understand Clark’s exception to being nearly run over, he should not have stepped to dude like he was going to fight him. Because you know what? That is valid grounds in China to fight. That’s a reason. At the end of the day, its a stupid exhibition match whose final result means nothing in the grand scheme of Georgetown basketball. You play the game, you do your best to suck it up and get through it, and you go home safely.

Because China isn’t America. And Chinese basketball isn’t American basketball. Next time a team comes here, be it professional, college or international, I hope someone properly explains what “Basketball with Chinese characteristics” really means.

Jon Pastuszek can be followed on Twitter @NiuBBall or on Sina Weibo @NiuBBall

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Monday Morning Jianbing

May 30, 2011


Starting your day right with China’s favorite street breakfast and a bunch of links…
  • The Georgetown Hoyas are definitely coming to China in August, but as to who they will be playing against?  That’s still a mystery.  We’ve said it multiple times before and we’ll say it again: Playing anyone but the National Team will be a huge waste of time.  And since the National Team will be busy gearing up for the FIBA Asia Championships, it appears as if the Hoyas are going to be beating up on cupcake university and professional teams.
  • Speaking of mysteries, here’s more speculation from ESPN’s mysterious “Player X,” who is saying up to 15% of NBA players will be playing overseas next year in the event of a lockout.
  • Luis Scola is in China and has been doing lots of stuff: Travelling the country, doing interviews, visiting schools, participating in promotions and doing halftime in-studio commentary during during Game 4 of the Mavs-Thunder on CCTV5.  Scola has spoken on a lot of subjects since arriving here, including a rumored move to Shanghai next year.  The Sharks’ owner, Yao Ming, wants the Argentinian to play on his hometown team next year, but has apparently told him that he’s “too expensive.”
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Monday Afternoon Tanghulu

March 21, 2011

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Sweetening up your afternoon with a stick of Beijing’s timeless sugar coated snack and some links…

  • A really nice consolation for John Lucas III, who is headed back to Chicago to play for the Bulls after missing out on the playoffs this year playing for Shanghai.
  • Is Orien Greene’s move to one of the biggest markets on the planet a smart long-term move?  It can’t hurt I suppose, but about “if he wins” thing… there’s simply no way that Beijing is beating Xinjiang in the first round because simply, there is no parity in CBA basketball.  Xinjiang went virtually unchallenged the whole year, going 31-1 in the regular season, and is 99.999% guaranteed to sweep Beijing.  If he puts up some big numbers and contains Quincy Douby, then he’ll possibly get some interest from CBA teams for next season, but being that he’s going to be back in the United States by April 1st, expecting any added off-court opportunities would be far-fetched.
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