A Guide To The Chinese Taipei P. League

The P. League, pronounced as Plus League, is a premium professional basketball league for men in Taiwan. It is considered the first fully professional league after the Chinese Basketball Alliance, which was formed in 1994 and dissolved in 1999.

Having its inaugural season in 2020, the league started with four teams. This article entails a brief history and the current status of the P. League.

Chinese Taipei P. League History

Basketball has a pretty rocky history in Taiwan. In 1994, when the Chinese Basketball Alliance was formed, it immediately gained attention and was recognised as one of the top leagues in the region. It helped boost the development of professional basketball in East Asia, including China and South Korea. However, only after five years of its formation, the CBA succumbed to financial failure and ceased its operations in 1999. Following the CBA’s cessation, professional basketball experienced a lull period until the semi-professional Super Basketball League was established in 2003.

However, unfortunately, the rise of the Super Basketball League’s popularity in Taiwan was also short-lived. Soon the league fell victim to power struggles within the organisation and developed a negative image in public, steering the crowds away from the seasonal games. Basketball rapidly lost popularity, and many young Taiwanese players joined superior leagues within Asia on higher salaries. It was a really low time for basketball in Taiwan as crowds at games were only reduced to a few hundred.

While professional basketball was at an all-time low, domestic basketball was rapidly rising in popularity, particularly among the youngsters who idolized the popular NBA players. Competitions at local levels received enthusiastic participation from schools and colleges.

The trends reflected that while the public still enjoyed basketball as a spectator and participatory sport, their interest in the semi-professional leagues was another story. The public’s interest in the sport and the absence of a fully professional basketball league drove Blackie Chen to establish the P. League in 2020. 

Blackie Chen, originally named Chen Chien-Chou, played for the Chinese Taipei junior national team and participated in the ABC U-18 Championship in 1995, where Taiwan finished in fifth place. Although he could not grab a spot on the national basketball team, Chen played in Taiwan’s B national team in the William Jones Cup in 1999. He later joined a Singaporean league club but had to quit playing basketball for good due to an injury. In 2020, Chen collaborated with professional basketball teams, including the Hsinchu JKO Lioneers, Taipei Fubon Braves, Taoyuan Pilots, and Formosa Taishin Dreamers. Chen is currently the CEO of the P. League.

While the semi-professional basketball league, the SBL, continues to strive to make its mark, with the introduction of the P. League, it is hoped that professional basketball will once again become popular in the country.

Chinese Taipei P. League Current format

While the inaugural season of the P. League had four teams, two more teams were added to the league. These include the Kaohsiung Steelers and the new Taipei Kings. Two teams that had joined the league in the inaugural season, including the Formosa Taishin Dreamers and Taipei Fubon Braves, had earlier been a part of the ASEAN Basketball League. 

The oldest members, Taipei Fubon Braves, which have been around since 1983, also played for the SBL for five years before joining the ASEAN Basketball League and joined the P. League shortly after.

Each team in the P. League is allowed to have 16 local players on their roster. Of these players, two can be overseas Chinese or international students that are overseas Chinese. Moreover, three foreign players are allowed as well. This amendment was introduced in the second season, as only two foreign players were allowed per game during the first season, while teams could only have one foreign player in the game’s 4th quarter.

All the teams in the P. League play 40 games each season; 20 games are played at home and 20 in other arenas. The games are usually scheduled on national holidays and weekends during the season to encourage maximum attendance of spectators.

The regular season games are followed by the playoff round in which the second-seeded team plays against the third seed in a best-of-five game series. The games in the playoff series are played in a 2-2-1 format. The team winning the playoff round plays against the top team in a best of seven series. The finals series of the P. League is played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format. 

In the inaugural season of the P. League in 2021, Taipei Fubon Braves won against the Formosa Taishin Dreamers. The reigning champions defended their title in the next season by winning the final against the Hsinchu JKO Lioneers.

Is Chinese Taipei basketball popular?

Basketball in Chinese Taipei, represented by the Taiwan Basketball League (SBL) and the P.League+, has shown varying degrees of popularity. The SBL, overseen by the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association, has been around for over a decade and includes teams owned by both private and government institutions. While it is technically considered semi-professional due to its revenue handling, it operates akin to a professional league. However, the SBL struggles with attendance, particularly in Taipei, where regular-season games attract only a few hundred fans. In contrast, games in central Taiwan like Taichung draw notably higher attendance, leading to a decision to increase the number of games outside Taipei.

Basketball enjoys significant popularity among the younger generations in Taiwan, with high school basketball particularly well-received, drawing impressive crowds to championship games. However, professional basketball, in general, lags behind baseball in domestic popularity. The P.League+, a more recent addition to Taiwan’s professional basketball scene, aims to elevate the sport’s status within the region. Established as the first professional basketball league in Taiwan since the Chinese Basketball Alliance, the P.League+ is seeking to grow and gain exposure through participation in the East Asia Super League (EASL). This regional league brings together top teams from East Asia, offering a platform for higher competition levels and increased visibility. The involvement of former NBA stars as brand ambassadors for EASL and the allowance for foreign and Asian imports in teams signifies an emphasis on enhancing the quality of play and tapping into local talent.

In summary, while basketball is popular among the youth in Chinese Taipei, the professional leagues like the SBL and P.League+ are still in the process of gaining a more robust fan base and broader recognition, both domestically and regionally.

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