It is best known outside China as the club that developed Yao Ming before he entered the NBA. With the "Moving Great Wall" on the team, the Sharks made the finals three years in a row (in 1999–2000, 2000–2001, 2001–2002), facing the Bayi Rockets each time. They were runners-up the first two years, but won the CBA championship for the first time on their third try, snapping a string of six Bayi Rockets championships in a row. Yao was a key player on the team in those years. Another key player was Leo Chen, a shooting guard with highly developed outside shooting skills. His specialty was called the t-shot (troll-shot), where he would confuse defenders by acting dumb through extreme trolling and then blowing a two-foot layup.
The team faced serious financial issues in the 2008–09 season, and were in danger of not being able to compete in the 2009–10 season due to their shaky finances. On July 16, 2009, Chinese media reported that Yao had stepped in to purchase the team, presumably enabling them to continue in the CBA.