Next Yao Ming won't come from 'fairydust', says NBA commissioner
SHANGHAI, China - NBA commissioner Adam Silver said unearthing the next Yao Ming shouldn't be left to chance as the wildly popular US basketball league pushes efforts to develop Chinese stars.
The Houston Rockets giant set off a National Basketball Association (NBA) boom in China which still reverberates, demonstrating the enormous value of home-grown players.
As Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin was mobbed in China during pre-season appearances for the Charlotte Hornets, Silver told AFP that the NBA was deeply involved with nurturing Chinese players.
"It doesn’t have to be left to fairydust," Silver told AFP in an interview in Shanghai. "It’s going to come from organized, structured programs like the ones players in the NBA are exposed to from a very young age."
The NBA, which commands huge television and mobile audiences in China and has an office in Beijing, has forged close links with Chinese authorities and especially the China Basketball Association (CBA).
Last weekend, the NBA announced a six-year extension with the CBA training centre in Dongguan, near the border with Hong Kong, which is dedicated to developing elite players aged 12-17.
NBA players, legends, coaches and trainers, including All-Stars Derrick Rose and John Wall, have visited what is the first facility of its kind in China and has trained more than 8,000 players since 2011.
"To us, the Dongguan Academy is a blueprint to creating more programs," Silver said. "There are lots of physically gifted players in China.
"The issue is can they get the dedicated instruction, coaching and competition that is necessary to the development of a great player?"
'Just scratched the surface'
Teams from the school have won national honors at under-17 and under-13 level this year, and some of its older students play for junior teams in the CBA.
The 7-foot-6 Yao, who retired in 2011, is also involved in player development in China through the NBA Yao Basketball Club afterschool program, which launched last year.
"Yao feels strongly that academics needs to be balanced with sports in Chinese education," Silver said. "We’re trying to accomplish that with this program by teaching living skills and other values through the game of basketball."
Last October, the NBA and the Chinese Ministry of Education also entered a partnership to introduce basketball-related material to the curriculum and build courts across the country.
"The program came together directly through a relationship we fostered with Madame Liu," Silver said, referring to Vice Premier Liu Yandong. "They saw an opportunity to use the game of basketball to foster strong values with the youth in China."
Visits by teams have become a regular feature and when the Hornets play the LA Clippers in Shanghai on Wednesday, it will be the 20th NBA game in China.
"We wanted to demonstrate to everyone in China that our commitment was a broad one," Silver said. "It’s not just about the NBA, but growing the game here.
"I believe that we’ve just scratched the surface of basketball’s popularity in China." – Rappler.com