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Yao Ming takes aim at reform of pro basketball

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2016-04-07 08:12

Right after earning the biggest individual honor in basketball, China's retired hoops icon Yao Ming has already set his sights on a higher goal: to push the professional reform of the game's management in China.

Former NBA All-Star Yao, who was recently inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, has embraced a new role in his post-NBA career - as the initiator of a newly-registered incorporated company, which was tasked with reforming the game's counterproductive administration through more professional approaches.

Yao was recently appointed president of the new company by 18 Chinese Basketball Association club shareholders, including himself, who established the entity with registered capital of 45 million yuan ($6.9 million) in February.

Citing the example of the NBA, which is owned by team investors and managed by professional executives, Yao expects that the company will operate and promote the CBA league in a similar way, if it reaches an agreement with the game's governing body in China.

"We just started our negotiations with the basketball administrative center (the government department that runs the league) to take over the league's operating and marketing rights with our professional crew made up of club shareholders and executives," Yao, the owner of CBA club Shanghai Sharks, said on Wednesday.

"The league should be run by those it concerns (rather than governmental officials) to address the real demand of its development while representing the interests of clubs," said Yao, who joined the NBA as the first overall draft pick by the Houston Rockets in 2002.

Despite the existence of a league committee composed of club representatives, the basketball administrative center takes full control of all major decisions - everything from signing marketing partners to youth cultivation and referee management.

Li Shengxin, a sports management researcher at Beijing Sport University, echoed Yao, saying that the CBA lags behind in the professional reform of bureaucratic management, although it has gained impressive media exposure and sponsor interest.

"The league's decision-making power, which is held by the administrative center, should be decentralized," Li said.

Due to the authority's lack of managing wit and operating expertise, a series of incidents - such as Liaoning club players brawling with opposing fans at a hotel during this year's Final series against Sichuan last month, and players publicly criticizing controversial referee calls - have tarnished the league's hard-achieved image as a professional one.

The effort to kick off professional reform has been a sound response to the top government's call for streamlining administrative procedures and delegating powers to lower levels, said Li.

Yao also urged the CBA to establish its own hall of fame, which honors great contributors to the game by enshrining famous retired players and renowned figures in pro basketball.

"To honor the predecessors is a great way to inspire the followers and this (building the hall of fame) is an aspect reflecting the progress of our league," he said.

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