Tuesday , Jul , 17 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Yi Jianlian and the Great Wall of Stupid

Yi Jianlian is “definitely not” going to play for the Milwaukee Bucks.

And so it takes no more than two words to cause this debacle of draft inadequacy, rough international relations, team arrogance, and player stupidity to spiral down into an inescapable mire. Chen Haitao, chief of Yi’s Chinese club the Guangdong Tigers, is the stonewalling mastermind who made this damning proclamation. As the Beijing News reported Tuesday, Yi’s club will block his move to the United States and NBA so long as it means he’ll be suiting up in a Bucks uniform. Yi is not coming to the league, at least not the way he’s supposed to – and that’s a damn shame.

Yi Jianlian and the Great Wall of Stupid

Allow me to pitch an idea to you if I can. There’s this process known as a lottery, some balls get flung around, numbers roll out, it’s all very exciting, and after things settle the teams unlucky enough to make the playoffs, become fortunate enough to have the top fourteen picks in the upcoming draft, per the order decided in the lottery. In this draft these less fortunate teams are afforded the chance to select some of the more talented players available to help their team. Beautiful, isn’t it? A system that promotes parity and competitiveness. And it’s simple too, the teams that need help select a player, and he plays for them.

If only this system could work as it was intended all the time. But no, somewhere along the way some self-extolling narcissist got the bright idea that he didn’t like this system, despite the glaring fact that is was undeniably mutually beneficial for both the team and the player, somebody decided the system needed to work more for himself, and less for the teams involved. We’ll just call this initial individual Steve Francis for the purpose of this comment, but regardless, this particular instance doesn’t concern the currently unemployed Mr. Francis.

Who it does concern, however, is the talented young Yi Jianlian, who is getting too much bad advice, and apparently doesn’t have the good sense or decency to realize it. Yi and the pack of hyenas around him are doing everything they can to monopolize the system meant to benefit him, the system meant to award him the privilege – not the right – to play in the National Basketball Association. Furthermore the manner in which they are doing it defiantly lets a middle finger fly right in the face of the Milwaukee Bucks organization.

This aforementioned system of drafts and lotteries works, is able to function, because it hinges so carefully on one key principle, that all parties involved, players and teams alike, realize that the benefits are supposed to go both ways. Deciding that you should be the only one to prosper from the draft undermines the entire process, and that’s precisely what Yi has done.

"Rather we want to find a team suitable for Yi’s growth," says Chen Haitao. "That’s the root of the problem," he added.

No the root of the problem, sir, is that you are an idiot. And worse yet people like you have led young Yi into the same manner of idiocy. Instead of cultivating an environment where Yi can grow, you have damaged his career at the earliest of stages and effectively sent out a message to all other NBA teams that there is no such thing as negotiating with the Yi party, only giving into its demands. Good luck finding a squad that wants to take on that headache.

Players should not be able to pick and choose and where they want to play after being drafted, that is the total opposite being drafted. Do us all a favor Yi, if you don’t like the way our system works than stay out of it. If you didn’t want to play in a city with a less than satisfactory Chinese population, then you should not have entered the draft to begin with. I can attest to your immaturity, that much has been made obvious, but I refuse to believe you were ignorant enough not to realize this could happen. It’s a draft, moron, you don’t get to choose where you go, someone chooses you and you go there. But of course you knew this going in, that’s why you made the message clear even before the draft that if Milwaukee did select you that you would never sign with them. Perhaps no one explained it to you, but that’s not the way it works – you are not a free agent. If that’s what you wanted, that’s what you should have done – forgo the draft altogether and become a free agent. But as a player selected in the draft you are obliged to follow all the rules, the same as everyone else.

Yi Jianlian is a talented young player who I believe has a great deal of potential. And yes, I get it, Yi is trying to secure what he sees as the best future for himself, that in and of itself is nothing detestable. Yi isn’t the first to try this kind, he’s simply the latest and so that makes him the example for the statements that could blanket all those who have done this before him, and be a warning to all those who might try it in the future. Manipulative actions like the ones we’ve witnessed from Yi before and after the draft are inexcusable. Secure the best possible future for yourself? Fine. But what about the Milwaukee Bucks? By what enlighted form of reasoning did you determine that they deserve to get royally screwed over in this whole thing? What pathetic realm of reality does a person have to slip into that makes them degrade themselves to the level of a tit sucking infant who believes the entire world revolves around them and every interaction is meant to exclusively benefit them, and them alone.

Say what you will about teams throwing games to get a better shot in the lottery, but as a whole the draft and lottery system is one of the things in the NBA that just works. But as was stated above, the reason it works is because immature tactics like the ones Yi and his people are pulling are kept to a minimum. It works because players don’t threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue if they don’t get what they want. When we as fans and press let that type of action go unchallenged we stick the silver spoon right into the mouthes of these athletes, welcoming their already inflated egos with the notion that pulling tactics like this as a "professional" is not only allowed but profitable, and that they’re allow to get whatever the hell they want as long as they make themselves a big enough problem to get it.

Consider this my message to Yi Jianlian and his people: your tactics of manipulation and immaturity are not welcome. If Yi is so set on playing somewhere with a large Chinese population, I think of the perfect locale – China. Do us all a favor and stay there. We have enough arrogant athletes in America as it is, the last thing we need is to go taking on the ego cases of someone else’s country.

When Yi is ready and willing to play by the rules and act like a professional, then this writer and everyone else around the league will be happy to have his talent join the NBA, but until then Yi Jianlian is blocking himself off from the best opportunity he’s ever had. And that is most certainly "definite".

UPDATE: Read a follow-up to this story