Basketball in China Part I: A Growing Force

Zhenyu LiContributor IIIJuly 24, 2012

The Chinese National Basketball Team in 2008 Olympics
The Chinese National Basketball Team in 2008 OlympicsPhil Walter/Getty Images

In basketball, China is generally recognized as the strongest nation in Asia, and placed eighth in the world in the last two Olympic Games. China's level of play is improving swiftly, and some believe the nation will be one of the top-four teams in the world in about ten years.

In the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, the Chinese National Team captured the crown and booked a spot in the London Olympics.


Team China: A Growing Force

China has traditionally been the No.1 basketball power in Asia, winning the FIBA Asia Championship 15 out of 19 times from 1975 to 2011.

Outside of Asia, the Chinese National Team has struggled against top-flight teams. However, in recent years, China has shown they can beat top European teams.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, China advanced to the final eight after a 67-66 win over defending world champion Serbia and Montenegro. At the 2006 FIBA World Championship, China also earned two victories against Senegal and Slovenia, two basketball powers.

On the road to the London Olympics, the Chinese National Team dominated the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship—a nine-game romp that included eight victories by more than 10 points—and captured the crown in the final, securing a spot at the London Games.

Brian Goorjian, a renowned Australian basketball coach who has worked closely with the Chinese players, believes that China's level of play is improving swiftly.

"In the last five years, I've seen a huge change in the development of Chinese players," said Goorjian. "The Chinese are getting experience from outside and taking it seriously."

Some even think China will be one of the top-four teams in the world in about ten years.

"They're a good team and they'll continue to get better," said Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the U.S. Olympic team, when commenting the Chinese National Basketball Team. "They have too many resources and the passion to become better."


2008 Olympics: The Dream Collision

In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China's basketball team had an outstanding performance.

China was in the "group of death" with the United States, Spain and Greece. It showed grit and made it to the quarterfinals.

China nearly beat Spain, the defending Olympic champion. The game went into overtime with Spain prevailing 85-75 in the end. The legendary Yao Ming fouled out after scoring only 11 points. He was 4 for 12 from the field and had four turnovers.

The highlight of the 2008 Olympic basketball games was the showdown between the host nation China and the superpower United States.

Before the home crowds in the capital city, with superstar Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian and Sun Yue in the lineup, this version of the Chinese National Team was the strongest in history and billed as the Chinese "Dream Team."

The United States also dispatched its best troops possible. The Dream Team VIII consisted of such big names as Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Carmelo Anthony, and the list goes on and on. The all-star U.S. team was considered by some to be even stronger than the original Dream Team, and also the strongest in history.

It was a "dream collision" for basketball fans.

In the "collision of giants," China looked spectacular, leading the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes. Six minutes into the second quarter the score was 29 to 29. After that, China was blown out by double digits and lost it 101-70.

The China-U.S. basketball game was billed as one of the marque events at the Olympics, and one of the most important sporting events in Chinese history.

An estimated 1 billion Chinese watched the game on television, in addition to the 18,000 people who watched the game live at Wukesong Arena.

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Zhenyu Li, a contributing columnist for some of the world's foremost sports publications, authors the "Beyond Gold" column for People's Daily Online in China.