The Chinese NBA star Yao Ming is buying his former CBA team, the Shanghai Sharks. The team finished the second last in the 08-09 season, the worst ever result in club’s history.
“As a Shanghainese, I’m emotionally attached to the team,” Yao was quoted as saying by a state-owned television station. “The club is now in a difficult situation and I hope I can do something to help.”
It’s such a good thing to do when you can help your former teammates. But what can Yao get from the Sharks?
Attention, one of the things that Yao never lacked since entering the NBA in 2002. But last month, Yao’s left foot injury was described as “career-threatening” by Tom Clanton, the Houston Rokets physician, a tragic news for the 28-year-old. The big man is not likely to get back on court soon, which means he will be away from Chinese media coverage for some time. By acquiring the Sharks, Yao’s presence can definitely reignite the Luwan Stadium and the new position to keep him in the limelight of Chinese media for seasons, if not decades. Once Yao retires, he’s name will still be held by new basketball fans in the Middle Kingdom.
Yao is deemed as a savior by Shanghai Sports Bureau, the powerhouse behind the Sharks, who seemed desperate to offload the team. The Sharks has been running without a sponsor since this April. Though there’re three shareholders, Shanghai Sports Technical Institute, Shanghai Media Group and Hongqiao Airport, none of them were interested in taking care of players’ paychecks after Xiyang Group pulled back from its sponsorship plan.
“As a renowned international basketball player, Yao Ming has become a symbol of Chinese basketball and even Chinese sport. His affection to his mother team (a Chinese way of describing the first club a player played for), his achievement and his experiences and visions brought by seven years of playing in the NBA, made us think that Yao Ming is the most suitable person to take over the team…”
Above is a statement made by Yu Chen, the Shanghai Sports Bureau chief, and it’s published noticeably on the Bureau’s website this morning. Being rich is not enough to steer a CBA team, you need to be welcomed by your bureau friends. As a national hero, Yao no doubt qualifies in the department and, the new Sharks boss will enjoy the reinforced warmth and intimacy with Chinese bureaucrats.
Seven seasons in the NBA still without a championship ring. Yao is not as lucky as Mengke Bateer and Sun Yue, who received their shiny rings respectively with the Spurs and Lakers, without even playing in the finals. Yet Yao’s fortune allows him to do something his national teammates have never dreamed of, buying his former CBA team, a team that he began to play for since 15, a jersey his father also used to wear. The pioneering buyout in China’s sports world means much more than just business to Yao and his family.
The RMB 20m acquisition of Shanghai Sharks will pave the way for whatever business Yao is planning in China. I wouldn’t be surprised if he launch his own sportswear brand in the future. The only question left is when.
Links and Sources:
- Shanghaiist: Yao Ming buys Shanghai Sharks
- Shanghai Daily: Yao signs agreement to buy Sharks
- Time: China Fears Yao Ming Injury Could End His Career
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