Why Do NBA Players Go To China To Play? (Here’s Why)

How come Tacko Fall, Jeremy Lin and so many NBA players are going to China?

Do they just want to dominate the leagues there? Or is there more to it than we see?

When NBA players go to China to play, it means that no NBA team wants to sign them currently. Plus, they go there instead of Europe since the pay is higher, they can easily dominate, and they can be more appreciated.

The question is, do players who go there still have hopes of coming back to the NBA? We answer this and more below!

Why do NBA Players Go to China to Play?

Over the years, you’ve probably seen many NBA players playing in China. While it might look like they’re just messing around and playing there for fun, there are several reasons for it.

Let’s talk about each one:

1. Because no NBA team wants them

Let’s be honest, no NBA player would want to play anywhere else when they’re still in the league.

But it’s a different story when no teams want to sign them even for a 10-day contract anymore. Remember that the NBA is the highest professional basketball league in the world.

As such, the pay is high, but the competition is higher. There are lots of players competing for roster spots each season but only around 450 players get to play. 

So, their next best option is to play overseas.

Their best option is either in Europe or China where the popularity of basketball is high. This will allow them to still earn more than they would’ve had they accepted a coaching job in the US.

2. Competition isn’t hard and pay is high

When an NBA player no longer has a team to go to in the NBA, the next best option is China.

Although Europe is also a top destination, the competition there is higher. As you’ve probably seen, a lot of European talents are dominating the league now.

So, if an NBA player wants a high pay but lower competition than European leagues, then China is the next best option. In fact, the average salary for foreign players in China ranges from $1 million to $3 million a season.

When you compare that with Europe’s average pay of only $60,000 to $500,000, then you’ll start to see why China is a prime destination.

Although players in China aren’t anything to scoff at, there’s just more pressure in European leagues. That’s why NBA players who are way past their primes are choosing China over Europe.

3. To revitalize their career

When an NBA player goes to China to play, you know that he’s still trying to get back in the NBA.

They go to China in the meantime so they can get paid while looking good. Since they can easily start in there, they can dominate and put up good numbers.

Playing in China allows them to increase their value so that they can make a comeback in the NBA.

4. China loves basketball

China loves basketball so much so that almost 500 million people watch the NBA.

Over the years, China has also produced a handful of talented players that played in the NBA. The most notable ones include Yao Ming, Jeremy Lin, and Yi Jianlian. 

They also regularly participate in the Olympics and the FIBA World Cup alongside many nations.

So, it makes sense for NBA players to consider China as their next destination since they love NBA players.

Since the competition in the NBA is so high, even a benchwarmer is capable of scoring thirty a game in China. This is why NBA players find it fun to play for overseas fans.

Best NBA Players Who Played in China

A lot of ex-NBA players love to play in China. In fact, there have been quite a few who became successful playing there.

Here are the players who had the best careers there:

PlayerCareer Stats in ChinaAccolades
1. Stephon Marbury20.2 pts, 5.5 ast, 4.2 reb3 CBA Championships and Finals MVP
2. J.R. Smith34 pts, 4.2 ast, 7.4 reb2011-12 leader for games played (32), 3rd in field goals and 2nd in 3-pt field goals
3. Michael Beasley31. 9 pts, 3.8 ast, 13.2 rebCBA Game MVP 2015-16
4. Al Harrington32.4 pts, 2.1 ast, 10.7 rebNone
5. Shavlik Randolph25 pts, 1.5 ast, 11.9 reb1st in free throw attempts 2012-13, 2nd in PPG (32)
6. Tracy McGrady25 pts, 5.1 ast, 7.2 rebNone
7. Gilbert Arenas20.7 pts, 3 ast, 7.3 rebNone
8. Metta World Peace19 pts, 1.1 ast, 6 rebNone

Do NBA Teams Sign Back Players Who Played in China?

When NBA players go to China to play, it means that no NBA teams currently wants them. So, they go overseas in hopes of putting up good numbers to get back to the league.

So, do NBA teams sign back players who played in China? Yes they do, but it’s rare.

Most NBA players who play there are already past their primes. Even though it’s easy for NBA players to put up good numbers there, they wouldn’t translate well in the NBA.

But there are rare instances where NBA teams were impressed with the player’s overseas performance that they get him back to the NBA.

For instance, in 2015, Michael Beasley played in the CBA where he became the MVP putting up season averages of 31.9 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists. As such, he was signed by Houston Rockets in 2016.

He then continued his career in the NBA for 3 more seasons. Today, he’s back in the CBA playing at a high level again.

Other Leagues Where Ex-NBA Players Go To

Aside from China, there are plenty of other leagues in the world where NBA talents love to go. Here are the best ones based on competition and average salary.

1. EuroLeague
Country: All of Europe
Average Salary: $400,000 – $800,000 per year

2. Liga ACB
Country: Spain
Average Salary: $200,000 – $500,000 per year

3. Basketball Super League
Country: Turkey
Average Salary: $250,000 – $475,000 per year

4. VTB United League
Country: Russia
Average Salary: $200,000 – $450,000 per year

5. Basketball Bundesliga
Country: Germany
Average Salary: $100,000 – $300,000 per year

Final Thoughts

The NBA is one of the highest-paying and most competitive leagues in the world. It’s no surprise that millions of players are dying to enter the league even to just be a benchwarmer.

But because the competition is so high in the NBA, those that aren’t signed choose to play in China instead.

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