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The NBA's Budding International Issue

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The Chinese nation-state has forced Yao Ming to play year-round and possibly ended his career prematurely. Even if Yao is a strong patriot who wanted to do these things, if he hadn't been property of China, he would've gotten some rest. ↵
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↵That's one way of looking at it. Or there's the perspective of the Chinese government, who had a word or two for Stern and the rest of the NBA overlords. From AFP: ↵
↵⇥China's state media Tuesday blamed the rigours of the NBA for a career-threatening injury to star centre Yao Ming, calling on the world's top basketball league to shorten its playing season. [. . .] ↵⇥
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↵⇥A commentary in the Communist Party-run People's Daily dismissed the widely-held view in the United States that Yao's repeated injuries stemmed from training with China's national team during the NBA off-season. "It can only be said that the NBA game has worn Yao Ming out," the paper fired back. "The physical beating taken by every player due to the long season, the high level of match play and the endless travel cannot be overlooked . . . The NBA should consider changing its match scheduling from the standpoint of safeguarding players." ↵
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↵Ha ha, right? How could this sweat shop wasteland tell us that our long-as-heck season caused Yao's injuries, not their refusal to give him a break after said long-as-heck season? What do they know about basketball, or feet and legs? ↵
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↵All chauvinistic kidding aside—and, for a moment, taking China's state media to be something more than a mere organ of propaganda—I can imagine an increasingly globalized game forcing a shortened NBA season. If the Association ever really learns how to make money off of overseas consumers, it won't want to be seen as the entity that keeps their national heroes from playing in international competition. Or, no matter who is to blame, contributing to excess strain and subsequent injury. Again, if there's money coming in from foreign lands, and this issue becomes a sticking point, a shorter season might be an important concession. ↵
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↵Ironically, this couldn't apply more than it does to China. Some very bold thinkers have claimed that the NBA's very future rests on understanding that China has so many people in it, squeezing less money out of more of them is a far more productive strategy than worrying about the league's standing in America. To extrapolate even further, in China the state almost always has a hand in as huge a business deal as, say, the NBA raking in huge amounts of revenue from broadcast rights, a minor league, or more regular season games there. ↵
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↵This may be a silly public relations war right now, but it doesn't mean these issues won't become more important down the road. ↵

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↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.