Rural basketball tournament eyes interactions with NBA


The Cun BA, or Village Basketball Association tournament gets underway on March 22 at Taipan village in Guizhou province's Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture. The tournament continues through November. (Photo by Wu Wei/For China Daily)

The Cun BA, or Village Basketball Association tournament gets underway on March 22 at Taipan village in Guizhou province’s Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture. The tournament continues through November. (Photo by Wu Wei/For China Daily)

The Cun BA basketball tournament, one of China’s popular grassroots sports competitions, plans more interactions with NBA professionals in the current season.

This year’s tournament, which started on March 22 at Taipan village in Guizhou province’s Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture, will last through November.

“We plan to take the championship team to an exchange program with the NBA, allowing them to experience, learn from and interact with professional NBA players,” Cen Jianglong, head of Taipan and co-organizer of the tournament, said on Friday.

During the Cun BA, or Village Basketball Association, tournament, at least one NBA player will visit Taipan to interact with players and the local community, he said.

Cen said the organizing committee plans to establish the Cun BA alliance through the tournament and foster the development of rural basketball.

More than 600 teams from 24 provincial-level regions, including 75 from Guizhou, have registered for this year’s event. More than half of each team’s players must be farmers, with the rest coming from different walks of life, including herdsmen, teachers and businessmen, according to Cen.

The men’s five-per-side basketball tournament has three stages: the preliminary rounds, group stage qualifiers and the final competition.

The basketball games, originally held to mark a local festival that falls on the sixth day of the sixth month on the Chinese lunar calendar, went viral in 2022, garnering online views of more than 1.5 billion that year. In 2023, the event received over 55 billion views, further consolidating its status as a cultural and sporting phenomenon.

In its third year, Cun BA remains both a basketball competition and a carnival.

On opening day, singers performed, with the aim of conveying cultural confidence to the audience and improving awareness of preserving traditional culture, according to the organizers, who hope that such activities will attract even more spectators to the games.

“The Cun BA journey is truly rewarding,” said Luo Shan, a resident of Chongqing, who took time off from work to embark on an impromptu trip with her son.

“The atmosphere was amazing, and we might come back,” Luo said after watching the inaugural game, adding that they also enjoyed local delicacies and performances.

The Cun BA phenomenon has not only energized the local economy, but has also contributed to the overall development of Taipan village and the surrounding region.

In 2023, Taijiang county, which has jurisdiction over Taipan, attracted 6.4 million tourists, up nearly 75 percent year-on-year, and the county’s tourism revenue reached 8.46 billion yuan ($1.17 billion), up nearly 95 percent year-on-year.

With the growing fame of Cun BA, Yang Zaihua, a local resident who used to work as a migrant worker outside the province, returned to his hometown and started a barbecue business next to the venue for the games.

“I used to earn only 4,000 yuan a month as a migrant worker, while now I can earn 400 to 500 yuan a day. When people come here, money arrives,” Yang said.

He added that he is happy, since he can make money while watching his hometown become an even better place.

At the grassroots level, sports events combined with entertainment activities are driving local cultural and tourism development in a number of regions across the country.

For example, in Wenchang, Hai­nan province, a volleyball competition featuring an array of playing styles attracted wide participation. The atmosphere both on and off the court was filled with joy and excitement, sparking the enthusiasm of players and spectators alike.