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After Yao Ming (姚明 – yáo míng) joined the NBA, basketball took China by storm. Ping pong tables everywhere were left deserted as millions of Chinese youth instead began opting to lace up their Nikes and hit the basketball court (篮球场 – lán qiú chǎng). These days, basketball is everywhere you look here. The courts are packed, tons of Chinese proudly sport their favorite player’s jersey, and NBA games are shown almost daily on CCTV-5, the broadcaster’s sports channel. While the American version is much more popular, China does have its very own basketball league – the CBA (中国男子篮球职业联赛 – zhōng guó nán zǐ lán qiú zhí yè lián sài) – I know, saying CBA is much easier. The season is up and running, so let’s make sure you’re up to date on your CBA lingo.
There are 17 basketball teams (篮球队 – lán qiú duì) in the CBA, which began play in 1995. The teams are split into the Northern Division (北区 – Běi qū) and Southern Division (南区 – Nán qū). There used to be an even eight teams in each division, but the Yunnan Honghe Bulls (云南红河奔牛 – Yún nán hóng hé bēn niú) were kicked out of the league only a few years after joining it (for failing to pay wages and debts), leaving the Southern Division with only seven teams. Since 2005, the season has culminated in a playoff for the “Mou Zuoyun Cup” (牟作云杯 – Móu zuǒ yún bēi). Mou Zuoyun was a member of the Chinese national team at the 1936 Olympic games, and he later worked as a coach and helped to build a professional basketball league in the Middle Kingdom.
The way the regular season schedule is setup, each team plays every other team twice – once at home and once away. As there are 17 teams in the league, this means one team gets a bye every week of the regular season (常规赛 – cháng guī sài). As for the playoffs (季后赛 – jì hòu sài), the best eight teams qualify, and they are seeded accordingly. The first two rounds are best-of-five, and the final round is a best-of-seven fight for the championship.
Most team names for CBA squads are composed of three parts: a geographic location (with the exception of one team – the Bayi Rockets), a corporate sponsor, and a nickname. To ensure that you’re ready for all of the action this season, here are the names and locations of all 17 of the CBA teams:
Since the introduction of the Muo Zuoyun Cup, only four teams have emerged victorious: Bayi has captured the title an astounding eight times, the Guangdong Southern Tigers have walked away champion seven times, and both the Shanghai Sharks and Beijing Ducks have taken the title once. Right now, the Ducks are the reigning champions (冠军 – guàn jūn).
After years of disappointment, the Ducks were able to capture the title last year on the back of former NBA superstar Stephon Marbury (马布里 – mǎ bù lǐ), who made the jump from Shanxi to Beijing back in 2011. “Starbury” was awarded the MVP last year, and he is now a bonafide superstar here in the capital. We’ll see if he and his Duck teammates can pull off a repeat this year.
A day in the life of Starbury in Beijing.
Highlights of the Ducks’ championship run last year.
For all things CBA, I highly recommend this website, which features news, standings, schedules, and just about everything else related to Chinese basketball. Best of all, it has a hilarious name – Niu B-Ball. If you don’t get why that’s funny, maybe you should start learning some Chinese slang; “niu b” (牛逼 – niú bī), which literally means “cow vagina,” is actually a dirty slang word that basically means “f***ing awesome.” To get you pumped up for the CBA, here’s a highlight reel from the All-Star Game and Slam Dunk Contest last year:
Whichever team you cheer for, this should prove to be an exciting, landmark year for the CBA. As for me, after three years of living in Beijing, I’m proud to say, “Go Beijing Ducks!” (北京鸭加油 – běi jīng yā jiā yóu).