While the rest of the basketball world was gearing up for Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, NBA commissioner Adam Silver was counting the number of Chinese player in the league.
What he found is that, despite China being the largest consumer of NBA basketball, there aren’t many professional Chinese players here in the United States.
“It frustrates me that there are no Chinese players in the NBA right now,” said Silver before Game 1. “There’s probably more basketball being played in China than anywhere else in the world. And more NBA basketball is being watched in China than anywhere else in the world.”
I guess Silver doesn’t count Jeremy Lin, as his grandmother was born in China, but his parents are both from Taiwan.
But Silver’s logic makes sense. Basically, what he stated in his interview was that countries like Lithuania and Latvia are producing some of the best players in the league, but China, the world’s most populous country, hasn’t produced many NBA players at all. In fact, from what I could find, there have been less than 10 NBA players from Asia in general.
Instead, most of the stars from China choose to stay in the Chinese Basketball Association or simply can’t cut it on the international level. Both the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies spend second round picks on Chinese players in the 2016 NBA Draft (Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin, respectively), but both ended up playing in China this season instead.
To get the stars of tomorrow ready for the big stage, Silver is teaming up with NBA legend and Hall of Famer Yao Ming.
“One of the things that we have worked on with Yao is the creation of academies in China,” continued Silver. “So we can bring together some of the best players at a young age, they can compete against each other, they can compete internationally in the summer because ultimately that’s what enables them to become NBA players. We need to increase the pool of top-notch Chinese players. I think it will have a great impact on our league, and I think it will be good for Chinese basketball as well.”
By cultivating the talent pool in China from a young age, the NBA should have a lot more players ready to go in the most competitive league in the world.
And, of course, with adoring fans back home, that means more yuan for the NBA.