The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) has ordered an investigation into a match that ended with a last-minute comeback win following a series of turnovers. The announcement comes amid continuing suspicions of widespread corruption in Chinese sports, with the country’s top-flight professional soccer league particularly hard-hit. The playoffs in basketball continue, and as punishment and decisions are imminent regarding this case, the reputation of one of China’s favourite sports remains on the line.
In Friday’s Game 3 of the first round of the CBA playoffs, the Jiangsu Dragons led the Shanghai Sharks 100-96 with 1 minute, 36 seconds left to play. The Dragons then committed a series of turnovers over the next minute, giving the Sharks a 10-point lead. The game ended in a 108-104 win for Shanghai and a 2-1 victory in the series, sending them into the quarterfinals. Fans immediately cried foul and the CBA announced on Saturday it was demanding answers.
“The Chinese Basketball Association has paid great attention to the CBA playoff game between Shanghai and Jiangsu, which has triggered huge doubts from media and fans. We have tasked the CBA League (Beijing) Sports Co., Ltd. with launching an investigation into the matter, and requested the two clubs to submit their reports on the match,” the CBA said in a statement on its social media account.
Match-fixing in China is believed to be controlled by influential gambling syndicates, with players, coaches, referees and association officials all involved. Soccer has been much more heavily targeted than basketball, where compensation, sponsorships and prize money are less generous. Basketball remains enormously popular in China, mostly because of former Houston Rockets eight-time NBA all-star Yao Ming.
The CBA has produced relatively few international stars in recent years, with the last, Zhou Qi, playing one season for the Rockets in 2017-2018. The outcome of this investigation could strike a fatal blow to the CBA and their journey to be taken more seriously as a global basketball player. Additionally, as many fans in China react adversely to major sports scandals, this investigation is a significant opportunity for CBA to prove the system’s authenticity, keep its fans’ trust, and prevent any significant damage.