Last Chinese-born player leaves NBA as Yi Jianlian departs Dallas
September 26, 2012 -- Updated 0935 GMT (1735 HKT)
China's Yi Jianlian has left the Dallas Mavericks after a five-year stay in the United States.
- Yi Jianlian, the last Chinese-born player in the NBA, leaves the Dallas Mavericks
- Yi has signed a one-year contract with China's Guangdong Tigers
- NBA star Dwayne Wade told CNN basketball still trails soccer as the world's favorite sport
- Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets has boosted the NBA's Asian profile
(CNN) -- The NBA is without a Chinese-born player for the first time in 12 years, after it was announced Yi Jianlian has signed a one-year deal in his homeland.
Yi failed to earn a new contract with 2011 NBA champions Dallas Mavericks, and he has returned to China to join former team Guangdong Tigers.
"It's a huge pity to spend his prime years on the bench in the NBA without being trusted," Guangdong general manager Liu Hongjiang said of Yi in a statement.
"He wants to play and we can provide an ideal stage."
Dwyane Wade reflects on diversity in NBA
Lin: I'm thankful for what New York did
Yi carried the flag for China at the recent London 2012 Olympics, his third appearance at the Games.
His departure is a blow the league, which is looking to take advantage of the potentially lucrative Asian market.
Current NBA star Dwayne Wade, a champion with Miami Heat earlier this year, told CNN that basketball still trails football as the world's favorite sport.
The popularity of the NBA in China skyrocketed when center Yao Ming joined the Houston Rockets in 2002.
The first Chinese-born player to take to the court in the NBA was Wang Zhizhi, who made history by joining the Mavericks in 2001.
The NBA's profile in Asia has been boosted by the emergence of Jeremy Lin, a Taiwanese American who shot to global fame with a string of standout performances for the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 season.
Lin, 24, has since left the Knicks to join the Houston Rockets.
Part of complete coverage on
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1254 GMT (2054 HKT)
With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
Jason Collins became the first openly gay man to play in the NBA, wearing a Brooklyn Nets uniform in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
USA Today called Madison Rising's performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" prior to a NASCAR race "spectacularly awful."
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 1513 GMT (2313 HKT)
A great football team combines inherent violence with a certain order, always imposed by the coaches and team leaders.
February 9, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who received a 162-game doping suspension, withdraws his subsequent lawsuits.
When the Super Bowl kicks off in New Jersey, photographer John Biever was there. Just as he was for all of the 47 other Super Bowls.
January 29, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
A cricket club based in Compton has turned neighborhood boys into gentlemen on the pitch. CNN's Paul Vercammen reports.
Music is becoming an increasingly big part of sport, whether on TV or at the stadiums -- but what does it add, asks CNN's Don Riddell?
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
What is life really like for a gay sports star after they come out? U.S. footballer Robbie Rogers tells all.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Phoenix Mercury basketball star, Brittney Griner talks to CNN about navigating the pressures of high school as a lesbian.
January 12, 2014 -- Updated 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)
Dennis Rodman has defended his "basketball diplomacy" trip to North Korea. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar offers his take.
January 13, 2014 -- Updated 1816 GMT (0216 HKT)
Mike Tyson reveals the stories behind his staggering rise and fall - and just what he was thinking when he bit that ear.
Today's five most popular stories