• Andrew Collins

Yao Ming 2.0? How big can Zhou Qi become?

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

Zhou Qi will become the sixth Chinese player to join the NBA as he aims to leave another Chinese legacy in the NBA. From Henan, China, and currently playing for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, Qi has confirmed that he will be entering this year’s NBA draft.

Zhou Qi is one of the biggest stories of this year’s NBA draft. He’s a 7’0 ft big-man that can play inside and the stretch 4 position, and has been widely covered by the media since scoring 41 points for China’s U16 team. Zhou Qi not only represents Chinese fan’s hopes for another elite athlete in mainstream global sports, but also NBA’s next golden ticket to affirm their position as the #1 sport in China. We take a look at how his draft pick is going to impact the NBA, and whether he can follow the giant footsteps of Yao Ming.


How does Qi stack up against Yao? Yao Ming had everything that a team would want out of the Center position. His post play was already developed in his early 20’s and he had no problem playing physical, something that scouts question with Qi’s skinnier stature. In terms of current expectations, Zhou Qi is more comparable to Yi Jianlin. Where Qi does separate himself though from Yao is his ability to shoot away from the basket.

Where will he go in the draft?

Zhou Qi is expected to be drafted in the first or second round, lower than Yao Ming, who was the #1 overall pick in the 2001 draft for the Rockets. The Celtics seem to be a great fit for Qi, where he could play alongside an already established interior player such as Kelly Olynyk. As a player that can stretch the floor and step back beyond the 3 point line, there will clearly be no shortage of suitors. But drafting Qi will be determined by many other factors than just his physical performance.

The Houston Rockets became China’s most popular NBA team after Yao’s selection, with millions in China following the Rockets after his draft pick. The same situation can be expected for whichever team Qi signs for, with a new generation of Chinese fans ready to follow his team. From a commercial perspective, the draft pick will result in an influx of Chinese companies looking to invest in long-term partnerships with that franchise and the NBA.

How big will Zhou Qi be?

The sport is already incredibly popular in China with a reported 700 million people watching in 2015 and 300 million basketball playing citizens. The NBA Weibo account (China’s version of Twitter) has over 32 million followers, 10 million more than on Twitter. But China has been waiting for a talent like Qi for years now.

Zhou Qi is not the finished picture yet, but if he is drafted by a team that brings out his talent, he has the potential to elevate the sport to new heights for Chinese fans and become yet another bridge between China and the US.

One single game between Yao’s Rockets and Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers attracted a reported 200 million viewers in China. If the NBA can nurture Zhou Qi to a competitive level, and create a new rivalry with another NBA star, then the sport can expect another Chinese superstar.

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