On October 13, the American Basketball Association (ABA) announced in Indiana, USA, that the Beijing Aoshen basketball team will join its league and play in the Red Conference in Southern California. The regular season tips off in November.
Some of Aoshen's younger players are training and studying at the University of the West in Los Angeles. Upon graduation, they have the option of remaining in the US for a further two to four years for more training and studies.
As one of the top leagues in the US, the ABA with some 60 teams on its list distinguished itself from its older counterpart, the National Basketball Association (NBA), with a more open style of offensive play as well as some differences in rules.
"We've been working on this project for months. The ownership and team are outstanding and will make a great addition to our league," commented Joe Newman, ABA CEO.
George Pickering, Aoshen's spokesperson, said: "We are very pleased and proud to be a part of the ABA. We are hoping to be one of the premiere teams in the league."
While other Aoshen players are adapting to their new environment, Sun Yue, Aoshen's only player on the Chinese national team, is still in China and will play in the East Asian Games in Macao from October 29 to November 6.
The gifted point guard was once used as a bargaining chip in a dispute between the Beijing club and China's basketball administration center (CBA).
Aoshen was established in 1997. It is a privately owned first-class professional basketball team. It applies for admission to play in the league annually, but the center cannot interfere with contracts between the club and its players.
The CBA has called Sun up for the national team twice since 2004. But the club's refusal to release Sun led to their suspension from first division games. This year, Sun was allowed to play for the national team, but Aoshen withdrew its application to take part in the new league season.
Aoshen officials explained that their move was to get the players ready for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, regardless of the investment.
"It is an individual action from the club, but as long as they can train talent for the country via high-level competitions, it would be valuable," the basketball administration center said.
Although both Aoshen and ABA are optimistic about their cooperation, some Chinese basketball experts worry about the future of the club. From their point of view, Aoshen might be alienated in the US on and off the court. If that happens, it will be unable to develop its market, in which case it will probably return to the CBA.
(China.org.cn by Li Xiao October 21, 2005)