For American basketball players who cannot quite cut it in the NBA, the option of going overseas to play is very tempting. If the player is good enough, he can get a chance playing for an NBDL team, but unless he truly believes that the NBDL will serve as a platform for him to break into the NBA, going to the NBDL may not be worth it. A talented player can make more money by going to Europe or Israel or…China. But the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is particular about the players that it wants to bring in from America. Teams have a limited number of slots designated for foreigners (to China), so they often look for black centers (unless your name is Bonzi Wells). In case you did not know, Yao Ming is a rare exception; most Chinese basketball players are smaller than 6’7.
For those players who make the cut and are offered a job in the CBA or NBL (one level lower than the CBA), they can look forward to lavish lifestyles of $20,000+ per month, living expenses paid for, and a league looking for guys who can bang it down low and take control of the block. The NBA has taken notice of the extreme growth of basketball in China and has begun to establish a stronger presence in the country. Kobe Bryant’s jersey sells like hot cakes there. But just maybe, not everything is peaches and cream for Americans who decide to cross the Pacific to get paid.
According to Dan Levin of the New York Times,
American players and agents describe broken contracts, unpaid wages, suspicions of game-fixing and rising resentment toward foreign players. Several players have left China after failing to receive paychecks. Last month, the league announced that it lost $17 million last season, which ended in May.
In the article, Levin also discusses the possibility of games being fixed in the CBA. As an agent, I hate to hear that there would be any fixing or bribery occurring, but would have even more concern about the possibility of my players not being paid on their contracts. It is a lot harder to litigate against a CBA team for failing to make good on a contract than an American team in an American court of law. Just something to consider before you pack your client’s bags on a one-way trip to Beijing.