By Veronica An
Wang Zhizhi became the first player from the People’s Republic of China to be signed by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002. Zhizhi had been playing professional basketball with the Bayi Rockets of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) since he was 17 and won six consecutive CBA championships with the Rockets. Although CBA officials were reluctant to release Zhizhi to the U.S., he became the 36th pick of the 1999 draft for the Dallas Mavericks and moved to Dallas, on the condition that he would return in November 2001 to play for Bayi in the National Games. Between 1999 and 2002 he bounced between NBA and CBA until he refused to return to China in 2002 and moved to L.A. Both Nike and the Mavericks distanced themselves from Zhizhi but the Clippers signed him for their 2002 season. With the Clippers, Zhizhi only less than seven minutes of play per game. In 2005, he returned to China to play for the Rockets. Zhizhi paved that way for other Chinese players to join the NBA most famously Yao Ming in 2002.