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Yi Jianlian
Yi Jianlian.jpg
New Jersey Nets  – No. 9
Power forward
Born October 27, 1987 (1987-10-27) (age 22) (disputed)
Heshan, Guangdong
Nationality Chinese
Listed height 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Listed weight 250 lb (113 kg)
League NBA
Salary $3,194,400[1]
College Guangdong University of Technology 2003–2007
Draft 1st round, 6th overall, 2007
Milwaukee Bucks
Pro career 2002–present
Former teams Guangdong Southern Tigers (2002–2007)
Milwaukee Bucks (2007–2008)
Profile Info Page
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yi.

Yi Jianlian (simplified Chinese: 易建联traditional Chinese: 易建聯Mandarin Pinyin: Yì JiànliánJyutping: Yik6 Gin3 Lyun4, pronounced E GEE-ehn-LEE-ehn;[2] born on October 27, 1987 (disputed) in Heshan, Guangdong, China) is a Chinese professional basketball player for the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Yi played power forward for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in 2002 and subsequently won the Rookie of the Year Award. In his five-year career with the Tigers, he won three CBA titles, as well as playing with the Chinese national basketball team in the 2004 Summer Olympics and the 2006 FIBA World Championships. In the 2007 NBA Draft, he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks as the sixth overall pick. Yi declined to sign with the Bucks for several months before agreeing to a contract with them on August 29, 2007.

There has been controversy over Yi's age, as several reports have testified that his officially listed birth date of October 27, 1987,[3] was intentionally falsified so he would be able to play longer in junior competitions. Yi has refused to comment on his age.[4][5]


Career in China

Yi was the only child of his father Yi Jingliu and mother Mai Meiling, who were both professional handball players.[6] As a child, his parents initially did not want him to join a sports school, which is designed for children who are predicted to be future stars.[7] However, after a sports school basketball coach noticed Yi playing streetball, he persuaded Yi's family to allow Yi to train professionally.[7]

Hoping to sign Yi to an endorsement deal, Adidas invited him to attend the company's ABCD camp in Teaneck, New Jersey in 2002, where he competed against All-American high school players.[8][9] After returning to China later that year, he joined the senior team of the Guangdong Southern Tigers and averaged 3.5 points and 1.9 rebounds in his rookie season. He also averaged 7.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in four games in the CBA Finals and won the Rookie of the Year award. In 2003, Yi was featured in TIME magazine's August 24, 2003 article titled "The Next Yao Ming".[8] In each of his next three seasons, Yi led Guangdong to the CBA championship, and he was awarded the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) honor in 2006.[9][10] In Yi's last season in the CBA, he averaged a career best 24.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, but the Tigers lost to the Bayi Rockets in the 2007 CBA finals.[9]

NBA career


Entering the NBA

Yi was not expected to enter the NBA Draft until 2009 because the Chinese Basketball Association ruled that players would not be allowed to leave until they turned 22.[11] In early 2006, however, Yi announced that he would enter the 2006 NBA Draft, although he eventually decided to withdraw, saying he was "not good enough to compete in the NBA and needed more experience".[12] A year later, on November 1, 2006, the Tigers announced that Yi would enter the 2007 NBA Draft.[13]

Yi after a workout

Yi chose NBA agent Dan Fegan to represent him in the NBA Draft and flew to Los Angeles to participate in pre-NBA Draft camps.[14] Before the draft, Yi was predicted to be picked anywhere from third to twelfth.[15] On June 28, 2007, Yi was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, despite Fegan warning the Bucks not to pick Yi and not allowing Milwaukee to be one of the teams invited to Yi's pre-draft private workouts in Los Angeles. He did not want Milwaukee to select Yi because they did not have a large Asian-American community.[2] However, general manager Larry Harris said they had only drafted the best player available to them.[2]

After the draft, the Bucks attempted to convince Yi to sign with the team. On July 2, the owner of the Bucks franchise, Senator Herb Kohl, wrote a letter to Yi and his representatives, hoping to persuade Yi to sign with the Bucks.[16] Three days later, Harris and head coach Larry Krystkowiak met Yi in Las Vegas, desiring to influence Yi to play for Milwaukee;[14] however, Yi's representatives requested that the team trade Yi to another city with a large Chinese presence. Chinese officials also required that any team Yi played with would have to give him sufficient playing time for him to improve before the 2008 Summer Olympics.[2]

Kohl made a special trip to Hong Kong to appeal to Yi personally.[17] He also assured Chinese officials that Yi would have sufficient playing time, and on August 29, 2007, the Milwaukee Bucks and Yi agreed to a standard, multi-year rookie contract.[2]

Rookie season

After being named to the Bucks' starting lineup by Krystkowiak in place of Charlie Villanueva to begin the 2007–08 NBA season,[18] Yi had nine points and three rebounds in a loss to Orlando in his NBA debut.[19] He played his first home game in Milwaukee three days later and scored 16 points while grabbing eight boards in a 78–72 win against the Chicago Bulls.[20] The game was also Yi's first game to be televised nationally in China, where it was watched by 100 million viewers.[21] Yao Ming praised Yi's play in his first games, saying, "If you compare us in our third NBA games, you will see that Yi's statistics are far better than mine".[21]

Yi Jianlian being guarded by Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets

On November 9, Yi played against Yao for the first time when the Houston Rockets hosted Milwaukee in the Toyota Center. Yi had 19 points and nine rebounds, including two three-pointers, but the Rockets topped the Bucks 104–88, with Yao scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.[22] The game was also watched by over 200 million people in China, making it one of the most-watched games in NBA history.[22] After the game, Yao called Yi's talent "unbelievable", and Tracy McGrady said that Yi had "A tremendous upside in this league".[22] Del Harris, the coach of the China's 2004 Olympics basketball team, also described Yi as "the most athletic 7-footer in the NBA".[23]

Yi was named the Rookie of the Month for December after averaging 12.1 points and 6.6 rebound per game in that month,[24] and scoring a career-high 29 points on 14-of-17 shooting in the game against the Bobcats on December 22, 2007.[25] On January 30, he was selected for the rookie team in the Rookie Challenge at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game.[26] On February 2, 2008, Yi faced Yao for the second time when the Bucks played the Rockets in Milwaukee, which Krystkowiak dubbed it the "Chinese Super Bowl".[27] However, both players struggled during the Rockets' 91–83 victory. Yao had 12 points, and Yi injured his shoulder during the game, finishing the game with 6 points and scoring on one of his ten field goal attempts.[27]

On April 2, it was announced that Yi would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.[28] Having already missed eight games with other injuries, Yi played in only 66 (out of a possible 82) games in his rookie season,[28] averaging 8.6 points on 42% shooting and 5.2 rebounds per game.[3] One of Milwaukee's assistant coaches, Brian James, later said that "the injuries he had bothered him more than people realized, and he couldn't play through them."[29]

New Jersey Nets

On June 26, 2008, Yi was traded along with Bobby Simmons to the New Jersey Nets for Richard Jefferson.[30] The Nets team president Rod Thorn said that "we feel strongly he's going to be a real good player",[31] and the team's chief executive Brett Yormark said "it opens up a truly new fan base for us."[32] Yi said he didn't expect to be traded, but that it was "an honor to join the Nets."[33]

Through his first 37 games with New Jersey, Yi averaged 10.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, while shooting 39% from behind the three-point line, which was well above his average from the previous season.[34] But on January 9, 2009, Yi broke the little finger on his right hand, and was expected to miss four to six weeks.[35] Thorn called it "lousy timing" because "he'd been playing well", but Yi said "(I'll) just take my time. I'll come back."[35] In voting for the 2009 All-Star Game, Yi finished third in total votes for Eastern Conference forwards, ahead of players such as Paul Pierce and Chris Bosh,[36] which raised allegations of Chinese fans voting for Yi only because of his nationality.[37][38][39]

Yi made his return from injury after the All-Star Game, in a loss to the Rockets on February 17.[40] However, after averaging only 6 points on 36% shooting after his return, Yi was removed from the starting lineup.[41] His final averages for the season were 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, as well as a 38% shooting percentage from the field, and 34% on three-point field goals.[3] After the Nets finished the season outside of the 2009 playoffs,[42] Yi's agent Fegan suggested the Nets played better when Yi played more minutes and took more shots, and said it "begs the question...who's accountable?" Head coach Lawrence Frank said that "you have to be patient. He's only 21," and Yi assessed his season by saying he was "still too much up and down".[43]

International career

Yi's first major international experience came at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships, where he averaged 18.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.[10] He debuted with the senior national team in the 2004 Olympic Games and averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds a game at the 2006 FIBA World Championships.[10] His performance impressed coaches on the Chinese national team as well as the coaches from other countries.[44]

In 2008, Yi was once again selected to play for the national team in the Beijing Olympic Games. In China's first two groups games, Yi scored only 9 and 4 points respectively, and China lost both their games against the USA and Spain.[45][46] But in a win against Angola, he recorded a double-double,[47] and in the Chinese's second win against Germany, Yi had 9 points and 11 rebounds,[48] and hit the crucial shot with 28 seconds left, to help China advance to the quarterfinals.[49] However, Lithuania ended China's run by beating them 94–68, as Yi scored 11 points.[50]

Yi Jianlian, along with former NBA player Sun Yue, was a member of the Chinese National Team that played at the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship. The tournament was held from August 6 to August 16, 2009 in Tianjin, China.[51]

Off the court

Age discrepancy

In 2004, Yi was listed as being born in 1984 in China's Four Nation Tournament,[52] although Chinese officials said that it was probably a typographical error.[53] Two years later, Fran Blinebury of The Houston Chronicle reported that Yi told Shane Battier he was 24 in an exhibition game before the 2006 FIBA World Championship,[54] although the story was refuted by both Yi and Battier.[55][56] Yi is not the first Chinese player to come under scrutiny, as former NBA player Wang Zhizhi has been listed as being born in both 1977 and 1979.[57][58]

In 2006, a senior CBA official admitted that past youth squads had included players above the permitted age,[59] and Yi's longtime American teammate in China, Jason Dixon, said to Chad Ford that Yi was "21 or 22...It's pretty common over [in China] to change ages".[60] In 2007, a Chinese government registration site made public by hackers showed Yi's date of birth as being in 1984,[61] and in December 2008, a Chinese reporter discovered school registration forms that listed Yi as being born in 1984.[62]

Personal life

Yi is fluent in both Mandarin and his native tongue of Cantonese. Although his English has improved in the United States, Yi still conducts interviews through his interpreter, Walter Ho.[29] He is currently under contract with Coca Cola and Yili (a Chinese dairy company) to endorse their products in China,[63] and after a bidding war with Adidas, Nike signed Yi to a six-figure endorsement deal.[64] He was ranked fourth on Forbes' Chinese celebrities list in income and popularity in 2007.[65] In 2008, Yi donated 100,000 yuan to support the Sichuan earthquake victims,[66] and also participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay by carrying the torch during the Hainan leg of the relay.[67]

Career statistics


Regular season Team GP RPG APG FG% FT% PPG
2002–03 Guangdong 36 3.3 0.2 .58 .60 5.0
2003–04 Guangdong 28 5.9 0.5 .517 .741 9.7
2004–05 Guangdong 53 10.2 1.4 .568 .717 16.8
2005–06 Guangdong 52 9.7 1.2 .574 .754 20.5
2006–07 Guangdong 39 11.5 1.1 .585 .816 24.9
Career totals 172 9.6 1.1 .570 .783 18.6


  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high

Regular season

2007–08 Milwaukee 66 49 25.0 .421 .286 .841 5.2 .8 .6 .9 8.6
2008–09 New Jersey 61 52 23.3 .382 .343 .772 5.3 1.0 .5 .6 8.6
Career 127 101 24.2 .402 .335 .810 5.3 .9 .5 .7 8.6


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External links

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|200px|Yi Jianlian when he played for the Milwaukee Bucks.]] Yi Jianlian (born October 27, 1987 in Heshan, Guangdong) is an Chinese basketball player that currently plays for the Washington Wizards of the NBA. He was chosen with the sixth pick in the 2007 NBA Entry Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Jianlian has also played for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2007-08 and the New Jersey Nets from 2008-10.

Jianlian was featured on the cover of the August 24, 2003 issue of Time magazine.[1]



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