American coaches who spent time at three NBA training academies in China tell Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN.com that their Chinese partners were physically abusing young players and failing to provide them with schooling.
The NBA opened academies in the Chinese regions of Zhejiang, Shandong, and Xinjiang in 2016, expressing a hope that the facilities would help grow the game in China and educate teenagers, while also helping the league identify top international prospects with possible NBA potential.
However, according to ESPN’s investigation, the academy program – which operates out of sports facilities run by the Chinese government – was described by one American coach who worked in China as a “sweat camp for athletes.” Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada report that multiple American coaches left their positions due to the mistreatment of young players, with three sources telling ESPN that one of those coaches requested a transfer after seeing Chinese coaches strike teenage players.
A handful of incidents were reported to the NBA, and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum – who recently revealed that the league shut down its academy in Xinjiang – told ESPN that the league office “did everything we could, given the limited oversight we had.” However, multiple sources told Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada that the instances of abuse were more prevalent than the few incidents Tatum confirmed.
“Imagine you have a kid who’s 13, 14 years old, and you’ve got a grown coach who is 40 years old hitting your kid,” one former coach told ESPN. “We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.”
The NBA’s relationship with China has been under the microscope since last fall, when Rockets GM Daryl Morey published a tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors that angered the league’s Chinese partners. Given its financial interests in the country, the NBA has been unwilling to denounce China’s government for its human rights record, which has opened the league up to criticism from multiple U.S. politicians in recent months.
While Morey’s tweet and the NBA’s tenuous relationship with its Chinese partners are no longer making headlines like they did last fall, ESPN’s investigation sheds additional light on the complications that come along with the league doing business in China.
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- Irene Pollin, the long-time co-owner of the Washington Bullets/Wizards with her husband Abe, passed away at age 96 on Tuesday, the Wizards announced (via Twitter). The Pollins owned the franchise for 46 years before Ted Leonsis assumed controlling ownership in 2010. Irene represented the Wizards at the 2010 draft lottery when the team won the No. 1 pick that was used to select John Wall.
- Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype takes a closer look at 16-year-old Victor Wembanyama, a 7’3″ big man from France who is viewed as one of basketball’s most intriguing international prospects.
- One iteration of the plan for OTAs for the NBA’s bottom eight teams would allow G League players to join those workouts, reports Ian Begley of SNY.tv. As Begley notes, the participation of NBAGL players would allow a team like the Knicks – who are carrying a number of possible free agents – to conduct more full scrimmages. The NBA hasn’t yet finalized those proposed OTAs for its bottom eight teams, but they’re expected to be voluntary.