Yi Jianlian, 25, got his big break in 2002 when he joined Guangdong Hongyuan, a top team in China. Two years later Yi was selected for the Chinese national side and in 2005 became the youngest player to win the Chinese Basketball Association’s most valuable player accolade. Not surprisingly, Yi earned the attentions of America’s NBA. In 2007 he transferred to the Milwaukee Bucks.
In 2008 Yi switched to the New Jersey Jets, the team with which he would enjoy the most playing time on court. However, Yi would be plagued with injuries, incurring 10 within five years. It became clear that – despite his expertise in rebounds – Yi wouldn’t take on Yao’s mantle of greatness in the United States. In rapid succession he transferred first to the Washington Wizards and then to the Dallas Mavericks.
Why is he in the news?
Yi has just announced he will return to the CBA, to play for Guangdong Hongyuan, after his contract wasn’t renewed in the US.
After five years of battling in American basketball it means China’s top player is returning to the domestic league. It also means that there is no Chinese player in the NBA, for the first time in 11 years. That could be a marketing issue for the American league, which counts China as a big growth market.
Yi himself does not see his NBA exit as a failure. After a successful time playing for China at the London Olympics, he commented on his Sina Weibo: “If you do not give up, you are not a failure. I look forward to a new day and a new season!”
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