A few Chinese CBA players, such as Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian, Mengke Bateer, and Sun Yue, have also played in the NBA. Conversely, a limited number of foreign players are allowed for each CBA team. Notable players include NBA All-Stars Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Kenyon Martin, Tracy McGrady, and Gilbert Arenas, as well as NBA players who were CBA All-Stars J.R. Smith and Aaron Brooks.
The league began play in 1995. However, the CBA as the name of a league should not be confused with the "Chinese Basketball Association" organisation, which was founded in June 1956 . In 1996 James Hodges became one of the first Americans to play in the CBA. Today, the regulating body for basketball in China is the Chinese Basketball Management Center (Chinese: 国家体育总局篮球管理中心; pinyin: Guójiā Tǐyù Zǒngjú Lánqiú Guǎnlǐ Zhōngxīn).
Other Chinese basketball leagues include the National Basketball League (NBL), the Chinese University Basketball Association (CUBA) and the Chinese High School Basketball League (CHBL) . At one time there was a league called the Chinese New Basketball Alliance (CNBA) , one of whose teams was the Beijing Sea Lions, but it lasted only one season (1996–97) .
For a full list of teams, see Category:Chinese Basketball Association teams.
The full name of each team usually consists of three parts, in the following order:
- A geographic designation (except in the case of the Bayi or "August First" team). Currently all of these are province-level designations (either a province or a Chinese municipality).
- A corporate sponsor name; this sponsor may change from year to year or perhaps even in mid-season.
- A nickname, such as the name of an animal. This rarely changes.
This can sometimes lead to confusion about what name to use in English because many variants may be seen. Team names are usually abbreviated (in Chinese or English), so that either the corporate sponsor name or the nickname is used interchangeably (rarely both). Also, the nickname can sometimes be translated into English in more than one way; also the corporate sponsor name can change frequently over time.
Changes in nickname are rare, but occasionally happen, as when the Shandong team changed their nickname from the "Flaming Bulls" to the "Lions".
In previous years, the title of the league itself was available for corporate naming sponsorship. In 1999–2000 and 2000–2001 it was known as the "Hilton League", in 2001–2002 and 2002–2003 it was the "Motorola League", and in 2003–2004 it was sponsored by China Unicom. However, this corporate league title was not always used in the news media, and this sponsorship practice was discontinued at the start of the 2004–2005 season.