FRESH from a puzzling and short-lived stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, Chinese basketball star Yi Jianlian found himself in another controversy — this time in his home country’s professional basketball league.
After asking for his release from the Lakers, Yi returned to the Guangdong Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. But he instantly made waves for the wrong reasons on his first game back.
In a report by qz.com’s Zheping Huang, the CBA issued a one-game ban on Yi and dropped a $7,000 fine on his team, according to a league announcement on Thursday, for violating a league rule mandating domestic players to exclusively wear Li Ning apparel.
The controversial incident happened in the second quarter of his comeback game on Wednesday, when the 29-year-old forward suddenly took off his Li-Ning shoes, left it under the basket before subbing himself out, apparently complaining of pain on his feet.
This act runs counter to the CBA’s rule mandating domestic players to wear Li Ning, from jerseys, shoes to socks as part of the exclusive five-year kit deal the league struck with the Chinese sportswear giant worth around $300M.
A Nike endorser, Yi reportedly defended his actions saying the CBA-mandated Li-Ning shoes were hurting his feet and tried to return to the game wearing his Nike Hyperdunk 2016s.
The referees eventually allowed him to play wearing Nike shoes after initially stopping his return on the court.
“I'm not saying Li Ning shoes are not good. They are a good company. But my feet really hurt," he said after the game.