The original four teams were the Beijing Tigers, Tianjin Lions, Shanghai Eagles and Guangzhou Lightning. The Hope Stars and Dragons joined them in 2005. The Hope Stars are an under-21 team of promising players from around the country. Henan Elephants entered CBL as an expansion team in 2009.
The first season ran from April 26 to May 25, 2002 with a one-game championship.
In the 2004 season, the defending champion Beijing Tigers once again defeated the Tianjin Lions in the best-of-five finals. They came back from an 0-2 deficit to win the series 3 games to 2.
The opening day of the 2005 season was April 1, 2005. The regular season ended on June 26. In the 2005 best-of-five championship series, the Beijing Tigers swept the Tianjin Lions, three games to none, giving the Tigers their third straight title. (The 2005 championship series was abbreviated to three games due to SARS.)
In 2007, the CBL began a support relationship with Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan's baseball league. The agreement allows the Japanese clubs to send coaches and players to China and Chinese players to train at the Japanese facilities.