Who Are China’s Naturalized Sports Stars? Kyle Anderson Joins Eileen Gu and Footballers on the List

Who Are China’s Naturalized Sports Stars? Kyle Anderson Joins Eileen Gu and Footballers on the List

Joel Reyes
July 24, 2023 at 12:34 PM
  • Minnesota Timberwolves star Kyle Anderson became a Chinese citizen through naturalization
  • The basketballer joined Eileen Gu and other footballers who obtained citizenship via this process
  • Anderson made the switch so he could represent China at the upcoming 2023 FIBA World Cup

Kyle Anderson will play for China in the upcoming FIBA World Cup.

Beijing’s basketball association announced on Monday, July 24, that the Minnesota Timberwolves forward has become a Chinese citizen, making him eligible to be part of their national team.

He is the first basketball player to obtain Chinese nationality through naturalization.

Kyle Anderson, Eileen Gu, Naturalized Players, China, NBA, Minnesota Timberwolves, Olympics
Kyle Anderson and Eileen Gu. Images: Adam Pantozzi/ Stephane Cardinale.
Source: Getty Images

However, Anderson is not the first elite athlete to gain Chinese citizenship this way.

Sports Brief looks at the sports personalities who changed their nationality to the Asian nation.

Eileen Gu

She made history in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, becoming the first naturalized Chinese free-skier to win a gold medal in any event in the Winter Games.

Gu switching her allegiance to China was deemed controversial as she was born in the United States. Her mother is a first-generation Chinese immigrant, while her father is an American citizen.

Kyle Anderson

Anderson is the latest foreign-born athlete to switch his allegiance to Beijing. He has Chinese blood, as local media reported that his maternal grandmother was born in Jamaica to a Chinese father and a Jamaican mother, per ESPN.

China Basketball Association (CBA) revealed the news on its Weibo social media account, using the basketballer's Chinese name - Li Kai'er - in the press release.

CBA also posted a photo of Anderson standing with the governing body’s chairman, former Houston Rockets star, Yao Ming.

Nicholas Harry Yenaris (Li Ke)

Yennaris was born in England to a Greek-Cypriot father and a Chinese mother. He started his career in Arsenal’s academy and earned 10 youth caps for England.

He became a Chinese citizen in 2019 after he joined Beijing Guoan. He took the name Li Ke after his naturalization, per South China Morning Post.

The defensive midfielder made his senior international debut for China that same year.

Pedro Delgado

He formerly represented Portugal’s youth teams internationally before deciding to become a Chinese citizen through naturalization. Delgado, who has no Chinese ancestry, gained citizenship in 2019.

Elkeson (Ai Kesen)

He made history in 2019, becoming the first player called up to China’s national team without any Chinese ancestry. Born in Brazil, he obtained Chinese citizenship through naturalization that same year.

Elkeson currently plays for Chengdu Rongcheng.

Tyias Browning (Jiang Guangtai)

It was easy for Browning to become a naturalized Chinese citizen as his maternal grandfather is Cantonese, who emigrated to England from Meige Village in Xinhui County, China.

He became a Chinese citizen in 2019 and has played 16 times for the national team since obtaining citizenship.

Aloísio dos Santos Gonçalves (Luo Guofu)

He obtained Chinese citizenship in 2020 after renouncing his Brazilian nationality. He started playing in the country in 2014 when he joined Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng.

He started representing China on the international stage in 2021, making his debut on September 7 against Japan in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Alan Carvalho

Born in Brazil, he gained Chinese citizenship via naturalization in 2019, making him eligible to play for the national team.

He made his international debut on May 30, 2021, in a World Cup qualifier against Guam. He excelled in his first game for China, scoring twice as a substitute in the 7-0 win.

Curry names his greatest list

Sports Brief recently reported on Steph Curry naming his top 5 NBA players of all time.

Among others, he listed Magic Johnson at point guard and Michael Jordan at shooting guard.

Despite including huge names on his list, Curry snubbed LA Lakers legend, LeBron James.

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Joel Reyes
Joel Reyes is a sports editor at with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines. He has eight years of work experience in sports writing.