As part of the China Basketball Association (CBA) season, two exhibition games and three-pointer competitions are being played against the South Korea Basketball League (KBL). Players in both teams have been selected by fans from their respective national leagues.
The CBA-KBL All-Star Games are being held in Seoul, the South Korean capital, Friday and in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, on Sunday.
The KBL team consists of 12 Korean and two foreign basketballers. Among them are Seo Jan-hoon, the 2.07-meter center, as well as guards Moon Kyung-eun and Kim Seung-hyun, who previously led their national team to defeat China in the final of the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
The Chinese will be led by forward Liu Yudong, who has guided his team the Bayi Rockets to six consecutive national championships. Also taking a principal role will be player-coach Hu Weidong, from top CBA team Jiangsu Nangang.
Joining them will be promising teenager Yi Jianlian, national team guard Liu Wei and Beijing three-point expert Zhang Yunsong.
Head coach Jiang Xingquan expressed confidence in the team, especially in light of the stiff competition they are expected to face.
"I know this is just an exhibition game, but it is always another story to compete with foreign players," said Jiang, who has never lost a game to South Korea in his coaching career. "I think the coming games will be very tough for us."
The two sides are old adversaries on the basketball court. While South Korea walked away with the gold medal at the 2002 Asian Games, their luck changed when NBA All-Star center Yao Ming led the Chinese to a win in the 2003 Asian Basketball Championships.
"Their best weapon is the three-pointer," said Jiang. "So it will be our No.1 task to stop their long-range shooting."
The Chinese side had mixed feelings about last year; while they honored their commitment to reach the top eight at the Athens Olympics, they only won two out of seven matches with the world's strongest teams.
At the start of the CBA's 2004-2005 season, the Basketball Administrative Center, the governing body of the sport, launched a 10-year development plan called the Polaris Project.
It plans to make the CBA the best league in Asia, even to become one of the world's top leagues. The forthcoming all-star weekend is part of its attempts to rebuild the league.
"We hope to make the CBA an advanced league with its own brand to serve fans, media and sponsors," said Li Yuanwei, director of the center.
"This contest between two of Asia's basketball giants is a great way to develop the sport further in China."
(China Daily January 28, 2005)