The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature.
The CBA tipped off last Friday, with many believing this season will be one of the most intriguing in the league’s history. A cloud hangs over China’s disappointing group-stage exit during the Basketball World Cup — a tournament it hosted — raising questions about the strength of its domestic league and the systems in place. On the other hand, Jeremy Lin represents one of the biggest stars to ever play in the CBA, and his arrival in Beijing has been met with enthusiasm.
Such is the demand to see Linsanity that the league has introduced tougher rules on media accreditation this year. Sports media will be expected to attend most games and report on those games in their home city if they wish to keep their passes in the future. Gone are the days of using accreditation as a method for free tickets.
But Lin isn’t the only former Toronto Raptor to make his way to the CBA. Zhejiang Lions, based in Hangzhou, announced on Thursday it had signed Lin’s former teammate, Kenneth Faried, who averaged 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds in eight seasons in the NBA. Faried, who like Lin failed to get an NBA contract, is rumored to be signing for $4.4 million.
Both Zhejiang and Beijing will be chasing the defending champions, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, who have picked up where they left off last season, defeating Liaoning Flying Leopards 107-98 with last season’s MVP Yi Jianlian contributing 16 points.
Elsewhere, Zhōu Qí 周琦, who broke down on camera following China’s elimination in the World Cup and was roundly criticized for his poor performances in the tournament, looks to have put the demons from this summer behind him. The 23-year-old Xinjiang star scored 27 points and added 12 rebounds in an opening-day 134-87 win over Sichuan, followed that up with 24 points and 20 rebounds in a 146-138 double overtime win against the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, and kept things going with 19 and 13 in a 115-110 win against the Zhejiang Lions. Keep an eye out on this former Houston Rockets center.
Barty wins in Shenzhen to claim the WTA finals title
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty emerged victorious in the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen on Sunday. The Australian capped off the season with a tasty $4.42 million bonus as she defeated Ukrainian Elina Svitolina in the finals 6-4, 6-3. Barty was as good in Shenzhen as she has been for much of the season.
Reaction to host city Shenzhen, however, has been mixed. It was the first time that the WTA finals gas been held in the city, but attendance in the early part of the tournament was lukewarm at best, and the atmosphere remained flat for the duration. On the other hand, the total prize fund of $14 million is almost double what the men will receive at the ATP Finals in London, and Barty’s $4.4 million is almost $600,000 more than Nadal earned at the U.S. Open this year.
More dodgy fan claims by a soccer club
Inter Milan has published its 2018-19 financial results from the end of the season. And like with so many clubs in Europe, there are some outrageous claims about the size of its Chinese fan base.
Inter, the second-largest team in Italy after Juventus, claims it has 120 million fans in China. This means that almost one in 11 people in China are fans of the Italian side, owned by Nanjing commerce giants Sunning.
Many readers will remember the claims made back in August by English giant Manchester United that one in five people in China were fans of the club.
Clearly, this is a trend that will continue to grow as clubs use looser and looser definitions of what a fan really is, or just decide to pluck numbers out of the sky as clubs face pressure to account for higher expenses back in Europe.
The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.