According the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement the absolute lowest contract an NBA player can have is a one-year $507,336 rookie minimum. But that’s the NBA, and comparing any pro basketball league to the NBA is like comparing any military organization the USA’s trillion dollar army operation. Nothing comes close.
In China, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is slowly but surely setting themselves up as the next big league. More and more domestic Chinese players are cashing in paycheques that resemble those of the NBA minimum. When you look at the numbers, bear in mind that the CBA is a 38 game season. That goes without saying the Chinese players are usually forced to practice 8 hours a day on their off-days. Regardless of all that, a report out of China released a top-ten list of the highest earning Chinese players in the CBA.
The veteran point guard shares the position in Beijing with Stephon Marbury making it one of the most expensive starting/backup point guard combos in the league. He spent most of his 12 year career in Xinjiang but was acquired by Beijing this off-season after the team won a bidding war against Foshan.
The Chinese Shaq makes the top-ten list with his near half-a-million dollar contract. Han Dejun has been earning his paycheck this season anchoring a Liaoning team that has held top spot in the standings the entire season. The 7’1″, 300 pound Han is only 25 years-old. He might not get any bigger, but his bank account is.
During the off-season, Beijing found themselves in a bidding war with Qingdao over free agent guard Li Gen. Beijing was able to keep Li Gen in Beijing where he is their sixth man who comes off the bench and provides fast offense and some muscle on defense. He likes to attack the basketball and will knock down the three if left open. Li Gen is still young and has a lot of growing up to do on the basketball court but this is an asset Beijing couldn’t give up.
Wang Shipeng is China’s best shooting guard in league history. He can shoot the lights out. He earns every Chinese RMB given to him by Guangdong. In fact, if it weren’t for injuries and old age, Wang Shipeng would be making more. When the time will come, Wang Shipeng will be a first ballot CBA hall-of-famer (if that even exists).
In 2006, the 7’0″ 245 lbs. Tang Zhengdong worked out for the Toronto Raptors of the NBA but failed to make the cut. Since then, Tang has won two Asian Games gold medals (2006,2010) and has established himself as one of the all-time great Chinese centers behind Yao, Bateer, Wang ZhiZhi. Tang is a beast. But his knees are starting to collapse. It looks like he’s on the down side of his career with Zhou Qi taking over in Xinjiang.
Zhu Fangyu is the CBA’s all-time leading scorer with over 9,000 career points in 16 seasons. His CBA resume includes eight CBA titles, 3 CBA finals MVPs and a nickname that doesn’t really make any sense in English (Rain of Three Pointers). He is a member of the Guangdong three-headed monster that includes himself, Yi Jianlian and Wang Shipeng. Those three are the primary reason why Guangdong is consistently placed top-3 in league standings.
He is currently in his 18th season in the league. He spent 17 of those seasons in Shanghai where he played with and for his best friend Yao Ming. Liu Wei is often regarded as China’s #1 point guard of all-time. In 2004, he was signed to the Sacramento Kings training camp roster but failed to make the cut. This season, he is teamed up with Andray Blatche in Xinjiang looking to give the franchise their first CBA title.
In the CBA, one of the youngest players in the league is also the third highest paid among domestic players. Zhou Qi just turned 19 years-old last week and is in his rookie year. Despite all that, Xinjiang still put up the cash to keep him in Urumqi (home city of the Xinjiang Flying Tigers). At 7’2″, Zhou Qi is am agile center with a long wingspan. For Xinjiang, he’s a project worth paying for. But NBA teams are licking their chops at the opportunity to develop this kid from Henan, China.
Last year was a big year for the former Los Angeles Laker Sun Yue. He got married, he and his newlywed wife celebrated the birth of their first child and he won a CBA championship with the Beijing Ducks. He also became the biggest free agent on the market. Many teams around the league expressed interest but Beijing offered him a shiny three-year contract that pays the 29 year-old just over $1 million per year making him the second highest paid domestic player in the CBA.
They call him the Chinese foreigner for his absolute dominance on the Chinese hardwood. Based on talent, the former NBA lottery pick is head and shoulders above every other Chinese player. Yi Jianlian is a perennial all-star who gives foreign players trouble in the paint. He plays like an American. He is the best player on one of the best teams in Asia. And Guangdong has no problems paying him for it. To be completely honest, Yi Jianlian is the Michael Jordan of Chinese basketball. In his eight year CBA career, he has four CBA titles and four CBA finals MVP awards. In the NBA, he played for four different squads including New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, and the Dallas Mavericks.