The Ultimate Guide to Your City's Pro Chinese Basketball Squad

By Ryan Gandolfo, November 3, 2019

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Basketball is back.

That’s right, and we’re not talking about 8am NBA live streaming from the other side of the world. It’s time to catch live basketball in your backyard, featuring China’s best ballers and foreign players (imports) who still have the juice to compete at a high level.

For those unfamiliar with the Chinese association, there are 20 teams split up into two divisions – North and South – that compete for 12 playoff spots. Aside from Chinese talent, each team is allowed to sign two foreign players to bolster their respective squads. Thanks to CBA franchises’ deep wallets (relative to other non-NBA leagues), the league has attracted quite a few NBA stars in the twilight of their careers, including Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Metta World Peace and more. 

READ MORE: 5 Top NBA Stars to Ball Out in the CBA

In China, the professional basketball league lasts only six to seven months, making it more enticing for players past their NBA prime. However, the league still has a long way to go to sway big talent (and brands) from their American counterpart. In 2018, former Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade was reportedly offered USD25 million over three years to play for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, but the shooting guard ended up turning down the deal. (Wade is still invested in the Chinese market, as he is currently in a lifetime contract with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning and launched his own wine label in the PRC.)

This past offseason has been one to remember for the CBA. Back in June, former NBA all-star and CBA champion Stephon Marbury was named the head coach of the Beijing Royal Fighters. 

Marbury out of the jersey and into the suit. Image via @杨健/Weibo

Marbury enjoyed plenty of success with the Beijing Ducks and now looks to start a new chapter in his China life. CBA fans lit up in August when Jeremy ‘Linsanity’ Lin announced via Instagram that he was signing with the Beijing Ducks for this upcoming season. 

Lin warming up before the Duck’s game against Tianjin. Image via @天津财经大学/Weibo

The former New York Knicks phenom played last season on the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. It’ll be interesting to see what Lin can accomplish in the CBA as he looks to show the NBA that they gave up on the guard too soon. Former NBA all-star forward Amare Stoudemire and guard Lance Stephenson have also joined the fray, signing with the Fujian Sturgeons and Liaoning Flying Leopards, respectively.

This year, the CBA officially tipped off on Friday, November 1, with the defending champs, Guangdong Southern Tigers, defeating a formidable foe in the Liaoning Flying Leopards. 

Below, we give you the lowdown on your local squad:

Local Teams:

Shanghai Sharks

Founded in 1996, Shanghai’s only CBA team, the Shanghai Sharks, are likely best known for assisting in the player development of NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming from 1997-2002. The national icon is currently the CBA president. 

The Sharks look to improve this season after finishing 12th last year, securing the last playoff seed which resulted in a 2-0 series sweep against the Beijing Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. After an organization overhaul including new ownership, a new head coach and two fresh foreign players in Donatas Motiejunas and James Nunnally, the Sharks are aiming for a top eight seed. But, they will have to make do without their top playmaker from last season, as Jimmer Fredette inked a two-year deal with NBA’s Phoenix Suns in the offseason. (The BYU star now plays ball in the EuroLeague, go figure.)

Pudong Yuanshen GymnasiumEnglish schedule (VPN required). Tickets.

Beijing Ducks

Having previously won the Mou Zouyun championship trophy on three separate occasions, the Beijing Ducks have new fire (and star) power in former NBA player Jeremy Lin. He has already been referred to as “the face of the Chinese Basketball Association” prior to his first CBA regular season start. Named after the juiciest meat in all the land, the ducks were knocked out in the quarterfinals last year, after losing to the Shenzhen Aviators in a 3-2 series. Will they make a leap forward this season? They will if Lin has anything to say about it.

Cadillac ArenaEnglish schedule (VPN required). Tickets.

Beijing Royal Fighters

Founded 10 years ago, the Beijing Royal Fighters (formerly named the Fly Dragons) moved from Guangzhou to Chongqing before settling in the nation’s capital. The team finished dead last in the CBA in 2018-19, winning an abysmal eight games in the 46-game season. But, there’s excitement growing around this team, after the Royal Fighters signed former player Stephon Marbury as head coach of the squad in June. The team also added savvy point guard Kyle Fogg, who was previously the floor general for the Guangzhou Loong-Lions. With these two leading the Royal Fighters, the team looks to make a big push this season.

Beijing National Indoor StadiumEnglish schedule (VPN required). Tickets

Guangzhou Loong-Lions

Having gone through multiple city and name changes, the Guangzhou Loong-Lions appear to have found their permanent home in Canton. The squad takes on opponents at Tianhe Gymnasium, just a stone’s throw from the Tianhe Stadium that hosts Guangzhou Evergrande, considered the top football club in China. Last year, the team teetered on the edge of the playoff race, but seemed to fall apart late in the season to miss out on the postseason. The team saw star point guard Kyle Fogg leave for Beijing during the offseason, and signed two new players – Andrew Nicholson and Keifer Sykes – to revamp a lineup that looks to get back to the playoffs this season.

Tianhe GymnasiumEnglish schedule (VPN required). Tickets

Guangdong Southern Tigers

Defending champion Guangdong Southern Tigers have made the CBA playoffs every year since the league launched in 1995. They play their home games at Dongguan Basketball Center but are known to spread the love by playing local games in Zhongshan and Zhuhai, among other cities, to build the team’s brand. Last year, the Dongguan squad swept the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA finals, securing their ninth CBA title. 

Dongguan Basketball CenterEnglish schedule (VPN required). Tickets.

Shenzhen Aviators

Founded in Dongguan, this franchise took a family trip to Shenzhen and never went back. Hitting the hardwood at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre, the Aviators (formerly named Leopards) made it to the semifinals last season, losing to the Guangdong Southern Tigers who went on to win the championship. This year, the seaside squad look to make their first-ever finals appearance with support from former NBA players Pierre Jackson and Shabazz Muhammad.

Shenzhen Universiade Sports CentreEnglish schedule (VPN required). Tickets

Tianjin Gold Lions

Situated in the Northern Division, the Tianjin Gold Lions face fierce competition, with Liaoning, Beijing and Shanghai all looking like playoff contenders this season. During the offseason, the Golden Lions added Montenegrin forward Marko Toforovic and American-born point guard Chasson Randle. Tianjin will need major contributions from these two players to enjoy any success this season.

Tianjin ArenaEnglish schedule (VPN off). Tickets

Notable Teams:

Liaoning Flying Leopards

The squad in Liaoning has been on an absolute tear in recent years, taking home the crown two seasons ago while getting knocked out by Xinjiang in last year’s semifinals. Led by newly acquired former NBA defensive stalwart Lance Stephenson and another NBA journeyman in Brandon Bass, this team can do some severe damage both inside and out of the paint. After missing the finals last year, the Flying Leopards have retooled and look poised to make another deep playoff run.

Bayi Rockets

Founded in 1955, the Bayi Rockets are, by leaps and bounds, the most historic team in Chinese basketball history. The team’s founding members served in the esteemed People’s Liberation Army, which was founded on August 8 (Bayi means 8/1 in Chinese). The Bayi Rockets host opponents in Ningbo’s Youngor Arena, where they completely dominated the CBA in the ’90s, winning the first six titles since the league launched in 1995. However, without any foreign player support, Bayi has struggled to maintain their dominance in recent years, finishing near the bottom of the standings in consecutive seasons. The team has failed to make it to the playoffs since 2010, coincidentally around the time more foreign basketballers started traveling overseas to extend their playing careers.

For more Chinese basketball coverage, click here.

[Cover via @CBA联赛/Weibo]

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