International Basketball

High Priced China

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.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.