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NBA Players Going to China

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Updated May 09, 2024 at 05:17PM EDT by Zach.

Added May 09, 2024 at 12:21PM EDT by Adam.

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Related Explainer: Why Do NBA Memers Keep Imagining Players Going To China?

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NBA Players Going to China refers to jokes based on the idea that underperforming NBA basketball players are likely headed to a Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) team due to their poor play in the NBA. The idea has spawned multiple meme formats and jokes, most notably Get Ready To Learn Chinese Buddy and Shaq Shouting 'Ni Hao! Ni Hao!'


In the 1990s and early 2000s, the NBA and China began a mutually beneficial diplomatic relationship that saw players from the NBA play in China and vice-versa. Most notably, Yao Ming was drafted by the NBA's Houston Rockets in 2002, and in 2010, NBA star Stephon Marbury joined the CBA's Beijing Ducks, a move that is largely considered to have opened the door for NBA players to play in China.[1] Several prominent NBA players in the 2000s spent their later careers playing in the CBA, including Steve Francis and Tracy McGrady.

It is theorized that NBA players generally may find China an attractive destination to finish their careers due to dissatisfaction with their playing time and contract offers in the NBA.[2] This has led to an impression among fans that going to the CBA is a sign a player is washed up, meaning they can no longer perform to a high standard in the NBA.

The first notable wave of memes about a basketball player hypothetically signing with the CBA came in June 2021 and centered around then-76ers point guard Ben Simmons. The 76ers Game 7 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks on June 20th, 2021, eliminated the team from the playoffs and featured an infamous play in which Simmons passed up an open dunk in the fourth quarter, costing his team valuable points.

As a result, fans began making jokes that Simmons had become so unwanted by the entire NBA that the only team that would take him in was the CBA's Shanghai Sharks. For example, on June 21st, 2021, Twitter / X user @GoldieOnSports[3] noticed that after the game, someone had vandalized a page with the Shanghai Sharks' roster so that it included Ben Simmons, gaining over 3,600 retweets and 22,000 likes in three years (shown below).

00:06 - Private FIBA nationality not displayed. Shanghai Sharks roster Players Pos. No. Nat. Name Ht. Wt. FO Yan Peng 1.97 m (6 ft 6 in) 82 kg (181 lb) F 1 Cai Liang 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in) 90 kg (198 lb) Meng G 5 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in) 91 kg (201 lb) Lingyuan LL F 11 Tian Yuchen 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) 92 kg (203 lb) F 12 Lu Wei 1.94 m (6 ft 4 in) 92 kg (203 lb) G 13 Luo Xudong 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in) 85 kg (187 lb) Dong C 16 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in) 112 kg (247 lb) Hanlin Huang C 21 2.12 m (6 ft 11 in) 89 kg (196 lb) Shigan Ray G 22 | McCallum 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) 86 kg (190 lb) Jr. Zhang C 23 2.21 m (7 ft 3 in) 118 kg (260 lb) Zhaoxu Wang LL F 25 2.02 m (6 ft 8 in) 77 kg (170 lb) Tong Luohan G 33 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) 80 kg (176 lb) Chen Ben G 25 2.11 m (6 ft 11 in) 109 kg (240 lb) Simmons ✓ Notes and references


Since 2021, multiple meme templates have emerged to mock the idea that underperforming NBA players would soon be playing in China.

Get Ready To Learn Chinese Buddy

Get Ready to Learn Chinese, Buddy is a fake Bleacher Report NBA Quote Card of the NBA commissioner Adam Silver captioned with a fake quote of him saying, "Get ready to learn Chinese buddy" to Kyrie Irving soon after his antisemitic controversy. First posted in November 2022, the meme format gained virality online as a joke threat to sports players who have been performing poorly or failed in other ways. The macro implies that due to their performance, a player doesn't belong in a top-tier competition and should instead be playing in a lower-tier league, such as China's CBA. Many of the memes also referenced the Chinese team the Shanghai Sharks, imagined to be the prime landing spot for such players.


Shaquille O'Neal "Ni Hao! Ni Hao!"

Shaquille O'Neal 'Ni Hao! Ni Hao!' refers to a viral video of basketball star and commentator Shaquille O'Neal shouting "Ni Hao! Ni Hao," which means "hello" in Chinese. The clip has seen widespread use in the NBA fandom since being aired in 2011, usually to imply that washed-up players or players who otherwise underperform are about to be playing in China's CBA.

Shanghai Sharks

The Shanghai Sharks are a professional Chinese basketball team in the CBA that became known in memes on NBA Twitter when NBA players who were bad or played poorly in a specific game were imagined to be drafted and scouted by the Sharks, as in, they were going to be out of the league and dropped by their team. The memes mostly centered on two players. The first was Ben Simmons in 2021 and then, more notably, Memphis Grizzlies player Dillon Brooks in 2023 after the Grizzlies were eliminated by the L.A. Lakers in the 2023 NBA playoffs. Shanghai Sharks memes were often used in conjunction with the Get Ready to Learn Chinese, Buddy meme.

NBA NBA Memes MEMES @NBAMemes Dillon Brooks thinking about his future 1:03 AM • Apr 29, 2023 · 93.2K Views ● 7 PG Rakute 12.0 PTS GORDAMER SG JORDAN POOLE 6 dial 9.1 PTS P 4.4 REBS 1.1 ASTS 3.0 ASTS 33.8% FG 40.5% 2PT 34.7% FG 25.7% 3PT 20.5% 3PT 76.7% FT 75.0% FT 22.9 MINS 26.1 MINS SF 10.5 PTS 3.0 REBS 1.8 ASTS 31.2% FG 40.0% 2PT 23.8% 3PT 71.4% FT 27.8 MINS DILLON BROOKS PF Webull 5.0 PTS 4.3 REBS 3.5 ASTS 24.1% FG 42.9% 2PT 18.2% 3PT 29.5 MINS ROYCE O'NEALE C 18.2 PTS 10.2 REBS 2.0 ASTS 3.6 TOVS 4.2 PFS KEVIN HUERTER SHANGHAI SHARKS' NEW STARTING FIVE (PLAYERS WHO UNDER-PERFORMED IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE 2023 PLAYOFFS) @NBAWORLDWIDECOVERAGE 45.7% FG 25.0% 3PT 75.0% FT 36.0 MINS KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS

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