Last night in Ningbo, Zhengjiang Province, veteran basketballer Liu Yudong of the Bayi Shuanglu Rockets had two reasons to be happy.
For one, he scored a game-high of 48 points with 15 rebounds to lead his team to a 140-116 triumph over the visiting Jilin Tonggang Tigers in the latest round of the China Basketball Association (CBA) League.
For another, Liu was given the CBA's Outstanding Contribution award for his achievements over the league's 10 year-history.
During the interval, Li Yuanwei, director of China Basketball Administration Center, presented the award to Liu with a special ring, which boasted 131 diamonds.
Liu Yudong, nicknamed God of War and Heavy Tank by his fans, carried the flag for the Chinese
Olympic delegation at both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. For the national team, Liu helped win several Asian golds and a place in the top eight at Atlanta.
After wining seven titles for the Bayi Rockets in the domestic league, the three-time MVP resigned in 2003 due to long-running knee injures. Last year, 11 fractured bones were removed from his knees and he returned to the court.
"This is the most memorable and exciting moment of my life and I am so lucky that the CBA has given me this opportunity. I hope they can train more talented players to further foster the development of China's basketball." Liu noted.
To honor the CBA's most notable players, the administration center planned the awards last year as the league entered its 10th anniversary season. 12 big names were nominated, including Sun Jun, Zheng Wu, Gong Xiaobin, Li Xiaoyong, Yao Ming and Menk Bateer. The final winner was elected by head coaches, general mangers and player representatives.
Li Yuanwei, organizer of the event, said the awards were to "review, give thanks and set expectations."
He added, "All of the nominees have given their eyeteeth to help develop the league. They are not only excellent players, but amongst the best of society."
The ceremony didn't hold any suspense itself, but the establishment of the award has triggered debate. Some local media even claimed the voting was fixed and that Liu had been pre-selected.
But this was denied by the administration center. "Of the 36 votes, Liu got 22 so there should be no doubt about the result at all," said a spokesperson, Li Jinsheng.
However, basketball fans were not involved in any of the balloting, and many were indignant that their own favorites, such as Hu Weidong, widely known as the Chinese Michael Jordan, were left out.
Some said recognition should go to a cluster of players, such as Wang Fei, Wang Zhizhi and others.
Hu Weidong, head coach and player of the Jiangsu Dragons said "Many great players came to the fore in the past decade. If we could establish a Hall of Fame, it would better showcase the contribution these people have made."
Shangdong Lions coach Gong Xiaobin added, "I don't think any one person can stand for the league's 10 year-history."
(China.org.cn by Li Xiao January 20, 2005)