The Warriors are, at this time, possibly the most talked about sports franchise in North America for better or for worse. But travel 6,000 miles, and fans of the game don’t care about the drama and controversy, and I learned to love the game again.
Editor’s note: Staff writer Owen Dillon was in China for two weeks. This is a first person account of his experience.
I recently traveled to China on a community service and cultural integration trip. I spent about two weeks in the country (I bet you guys all missed my beautiful writing dearly during that time), and everywhere you turn, you see a basketball hoop.
The first thing that I noticed in Beijing, the capital city, besides the blatant propaganda that surrounds pretty much every building, is the amount of basketball posters, shirts, balls and courts that line the streets.
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On my third day in China, the group that I was traveling with and I went to a school in a village outside of Beijing. The village was located in the mountains, and the kids at the school did not come from means. The school did not have much. There was one building, two classrooms, and far too many children for the teachers. The classrooms were barren, and resources were scarce.
Come 10:00 AM, however, the designated break time, and both the children and the teachers forgot about everything in their lives, forgot about how they may or may not eat a whole lunch today, and they went out to the basketball hoop and played.
I don’t speak any Mandarin, so I couldn’t understand anything that they were saying, but every time a shot went up, I could hear “Kobe!” being yelled by every player on the offensive team (I didn’t tell anyone that the Black Mamba has pretty much been garbage for the past 5 years).
I don’t speak any Mandarin, so I couldn’t understand anything that they were saying, but every time a shot went up, I could hear “Kobe!”
A class full of 13 and 14 year old impoverished Chinese students went out to their cracked and hilly basketball court and started playing the basketball game with more passing, screen setting, and movement than you would ever see at even the highest level AAU tournament.
And while every kid was playing to win, it was clear that the main objective of this game was to have fun. Basketball was their escape.
Throughout my time in Beijing, it became apparent that basketball was the singular most popular sport in the country. Yao Ming was probably a top-5 most famous person ever, and Jeremy Lin jerseys and t-shirts were a dime a dozen. I spoke to some residents of the city, and every time I mentioned I was from California they would say “Oh! Golden State! Curry!” (take that, LeBron).
There’s really no way to describe just how much basketball is loved in China. Everywhere you turn, there’s a basketball hoop, and multiple people playing at it. On a flight from Beijing to the small city of Chengdou, we saw not just one, but three basketball hoops outside of gates at the airport. So if your baggage is taking an hour to get to baggage claim in China, it’s probably because everyone is playing basketball. Whoops.
To end the trip, I had the chance to live with a student in Shanghai. It was a chance to experience culture and all that, etc., etc. So, obviously, I asked him if he knew who Kanye West was. I was just trying to make connections, OK? Lay off. He said no, he had never heard of that guy. Drake? Nope.
There’s a reason that the Warriors wear Chinese New Year jerseys every year. And why they went to China last year to play some exhibition games. The country simply loves the game. And yes, it was a great chance for the Dubs to grow their global brand, but it was more a chance to simply showcase the sport to fans that have an always growing hunger for it, but not enough of a chance to experience it often.
Does Tony, the name of the guy I was staying with, care about Kevin Durant coming to the Warriors and if his legacy will be hurt blah blah blah? Doubt it. He probably just wants to see some beautiful basketball. He just wants to see the game that he loves. Everyone does. And that inspired me. To take a step back from all the drama that we create around the game. To slow down a bit, and just appreciate the sport.
I ask all of you, from wherever you come from, to slow your roll. Go on YouTube, watch a few BallisLife mixtapes, and just love the game. Go outside with your friends and shoot around. Take a cue from the Chinese. It’s time to stop caring so much about all the extra stuff, and start to care more about the actual game.
Who cares if KD’s legacy will be hurt? As long as everyone gets to watch him, Steph, and Klay drain 3s all day, we’re all going to have fun. Who cares if Kyrie Irving may or may not be overrated? Just learn to appreciate his handles, and revel in watching him drop fools to the floor.
Be like the Chinese. Love the game again.