Yi Jianlian (Chinese:易建联) is one of China's most outstanding basketball players. He joined the American National Basketball Association (NBA) after Yao Ming. He has been picked to become the national flag bearer during the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games.
Yi was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007, two years after he was crowned the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Though not as influential as Yao, Yi is considered a rising athletic envoy who is expected to help pushing forward NBA’s popularity in China after Yao’s retirement in July 2011.
Born in Oct. 27, 1987, in Guangdong, Yi was discovered by Dai Yixin, a coach from an amateur sports school during a street basketball game despite the 12-year-old's team getting ran out of the match. Yi joined the youth training team of Guangdong Hongyuan Basketball Club and became a professional player at the age of 13. He was later recruited by the National Young Basketball Team of China and impressed fans with his nimble movement and comprehensive skills.
His national fame began peaking at age 18 as he helped Guangdong Hongyuan to claim three titles in the following five seasons.
At the international Uder-19 Men’s Basketball Game in 2003, Yi averaged 18.9 points and 11.5 rebounds, gaining attention from scouts and becoming a NBA hopeful. He was interviewed by Time magazine in the same year at a basketball campus and was consequently presumed as the next Yao.
However, Yi's on-court performance has been inconsistent. He averaged only 2.7 points and 3.8 rebounds at Athens’ Olympic Games, raising concerns over his potential.
Yet his diligence and gifts in the following matches as a player for CBA cleared out some of the doubts. He average 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds at the World Men's Basketball Championship in 2006, an improvement from his Athens performance.
The intensive competition in the NBA has allowed Yi to grow. When he returned to CBA in 2010 for the Turkey's World Men's Basketball Championship, he became a trump card for Coach Bob. Donewald. He averaged 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in the tournament, with some giving him the nickname "the King of the Rebounds."
In 2012, he continued his NBA professional career with defending champion the Dallas Mavericks.