The Bayi Rockets, the Chinese army's professional basketball team and eight-time CBA champions, have quit the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and Women's Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA), marking an end of the team's long and glorious history in the sport.
The CBA announced on Tuesday that Bayi Rockets has withdrawn from China's men's and women's professional basketball leagues, as required by the training management of the Central Military Commission, ending weeks of speculation over the team's fate.
"The Chinese Basketball Association salutes Bayi," the CBA said in tribute to the team.
The Bayi Rockets, one of China's most successful basketball teams, was founded in 1955 by Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). The team's name "Bayi" refers to August 1, the date the PLA was founded in 1927.
"Ever since the founding of Bayi, its men's and women's basketball teams have achieved numerous successes in various major tournaments, constantly sent outstanding players to the national team, and made indelible contributions to the development of China's basketball industry," the CBA wrote in an announcement.
The Bayi Rockets has a long history that predates the current CBA. Having once been a "superpower" in the association, the team has won the league championship eight times since 1995.
Bayi Rockets' era of championship victories stopped in 2007. With the CBA becoming increasingly commercialized, the tight-budgeted Bayi Rockets began to lose its appeal to Chinese elite players, as other clubs were able to offer much higher salaries, and being affiliated to the army, it was unable to recruit foreign players.
The Bayi Rockets came last in the CBA in the 2019/20, 2017/18 and 2016/17 seasons, and hit rock bottom after losing its last 13 games in the CBA.
In addition, with the continued downsizing of the army in the last few years, observers saw non-combat personnel - the main pool for Bayi teams - as a priority target for personnel reduction.
The basketball team is not the army's only victim of changing times. Bayi's soccer team disintegrated in 2003, and earlier this month, its volleyball teams withdrew from the China Volleyball League.
"Bayi's withdrawal from the CBA was inevitable," Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday. "According to the Central Military Commission, no army personnel are allowed to engage in commercial activities. Previously, Bayi Rockets played in the CBA for the Military World Games, but now there is no longer a need to play."
Nevertheless, saying goodbye to these pioneering heroes was still an emotional event. "All glory is remembered in history," a fan wrote on China's biggest basketball forum Hupu on Tuesday, "Sending my best wishes to Bayi."
Recognizing Bayi's contributions to Chinese basketball, Wang believed that it is time for Bayi to step out, which could be "a boost for the professionalization" of Chinese basketball.
"The Bayi spirit will live on," Wang noted, "Bayi's cohesion and discipline should be carried forward by all Chinese basketball players. This is the true legacy of Chinese basketball."