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US NBA Player Will Represent China at World Cup

Timberwolves guard Kyle Anderson, who goes by the mandarin name Li Kaier and is said to have a great grandfather from China, was awarded Chinese nationality.
Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 25, 2023
Timberwolves guard Kyle Anderson is said to play for China at the FIBA World Cup.
A file photo of Kyle Anderson of the Minnesota Timberwolves during an April of 2023 game against the Los Angeles Lakers in LA. Anderson, who is said to have a Chinese great grandfather, has been granted Chinese citizenship and will play for Team China at the August FIBA World Cup. (Image: Harry How/Getty Images)

An American professional basketball player will represent Mainland China at the upcoming FIBA World Cup after being granted Chinese citizenship “through naturalization.”

Reuters made the report on July 24 that forward for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, Kyle Anderson, would play for China at the tournament.

“(Anderson) obtained Chinese nationality this morning and met Yao Ming, chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association,” the CBA said in a statement according to Reuters.

The FIBA World Cup begins in late August and will be played throughout the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan.

The Chinese team is unorthodox as head coach Du Feng was replaced by Sasha Djordjevic, a Serbian, for the tournament, the FIBA website reports.

Anderson, who also goes by the Chinese name Li Kaier, told his followers on Weibo, a Chinese-language alternative to Twitter that officially requires a Mainland phone number to use, “Hello fans in China, this is Li Kaier, I am so happy to announce that I will be representing China in the World Cup. Really proud and honored to wear the Team China jersey,” CNN reported.

The Timberwolves’ guard appearing for China instead of the United States is ostensibly not out of the ordinary. According to the NBA’s statistics, in 574 career games over 9 seasons, Anderson has posted an average of 7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

In 2023, Anderson was the 88th ranked player in the league by statistics, averaging 25.9 minutes per game.

Team USA’s squad includes superstar talent such as the New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson and Anderson’s teammate Anthony Edwards, the number 8 and number 3 players in the league by overall statistics, who averaged 27.8 points over 40.3 minutes per game and 31.6 points over 39.7 minutes per game respectively.

Reuters states that Anderson may also play for China in the 2025 Summer Olympics on account of being granted formal citizenship.

“It is unclear if Anderson and the others have renounced their original nationality. China has strict rules that usually prevent dual nationality for its citizens,” Reuters noted.

An AFP wire release published by South China Morning Post also noted that Anderson “reportedly has a Chinese great-grandfather.”

The official FIBA website states in an article on the roster change that, “Anderson has long been in touch with his Chinese heritage, notably when he went to China in 2018 to connect with his great-grandfather’s relatives.”

A 2018 article by CloseUp360 shows Anderson in China visiting with relatives in Shenzhen during what was described as “the culmination of a four-year search to find the missing branch of their family tree.”

The article added, “Kyle knew he was one-eighth Chinese for quite some time. But it wasn’t until this summer that a true connection to his roots was formed, thanks to Suzanne’s [his mother] relentless efforts to dig them up.”

“Through an arrangement with the Chinese-based media company Acorn Entertainment, Kyle and Suzanne flew 16 hours this summer to meet roughly 30 of their relatives in China,” authors wrote.

Suzanne Anderson was quoted as stating, “I knew I had a Chinese grandfather…I could tell by my eyes and my skin that I had some type of Chinese blood in me.”

“It wasn’t until 2012, when Suzanne joined Kyle and the UCLA men’s basketball team on a trip to Shanghai, that she started to believe she could piece together the puzzle of her family’s story,” the article added.

CloseUp360 said Suzanne was contacted by a man after submitting her genetic sequences to AncestryDNA “who was conducting his own search.”

Kyle Anderson was quoted as saying, “I’ve always been told that I resemble the Chinese people, and my friends would always tell me that.”

“I didn’t know what to expect—maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. But just that I finally do, I want to indulge in the culture now. I want to be a part of it now,” he added.

Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece China Daily said in an announcement on Anderson’s naturalization, “It’s official! There will be a Chinese player again in the NBA lineup in the next season.”

“Anderson became an eligible candidate for CBA’s overseas talent search due to his family lineage. His mother’s grandfather was Chinese,” China Daily added.

It continued, “The versatile forward has amassed a huge fan following in China, which is the NBA’s biggest overseas market, ever since the CBA confirmed its intentions to bring him onboard in April.”