Posted files under ‘NBA

The Redeem Team, China and Leslie’s Basketball Craze, & the Woe of Living in the Pacific Standard Time Zone

To those of you who are not basketball-heads like me, bear with me on this post. I have just finished watching the much anticipated USA vs. China men’s basketball match-up and it is time for one of my basketball word surges.

The Redeem Team

The “Redeem Team” unsurprisingly dominated the game, but I strongly believe that they were very well matched with the Chinese team for much of the 1st half. In the United States, NBA basketball players are notorious for their tabloid-worthy antics like their sex scandals, wild partying ways, and DUIs in addition to their flashy fundamentals and gravity-defying artistry in slam dunks. You could argue that they have a reason to be cocky for their talent and hey, if you got the money, why not flaunt it for the world to see.

However, I have to disagree that the USA basketball players are being cocky in this Olympic Games. Maybe outside of the Olympic games, they foster the speculations of their baby mamas and sexual affairs, but right now in the Beijing Olympic games, this is not the time for those antics. Their losses in the most recent World Championships and the bronze medal earned in the 2004 Athens Olympics have acted as a much needed wake-up call for the USA professional basketball mentality. There is a reason why this year’s USA team is appropriately named the “Redeem Team.” This generation of NBA superstars have witnessed an incredible turn of events in the international game. They realize that they will no longer be able to dominate the international games as they did in the past. Although the USA Olympic basketball team is comprised of the NBA’s biggest names, I am actually impressed that they are not getting complacent with the amount of talent they have on their squad.

They may be greeted with extreme rock star-like attention by the Chinese basketball fans [especially with my much-disliked Kobe Bryant, but that is a rant for another time], but I believe that they have yet to take a cocky stand on their celebrity status in these Games. They do play a much more different and flashy game of basketball in the NBA, but it is our USA basketball team who now has to adjust to the international ways of the game in order to achieve their ultimate goal of the Olympic gold. Although most of their points in the USA-China game were attained by slam dunks over the Chinese, they were hurt in the 3-point shooting area, probably because of the change in range of 3-pointers in the international game as well as being having an overall weaker 3-point game.

The Olympics coverage has also reported of instances where these NBA stars are actually attempting to be a more integral part of the USA Olympic team instead of staying within their own little basketball team bubble. Jason Kidd took time out of prepping for the USA-China match-up by attending his admirer Misty May-Treanor’s beach volleyball game earlier in the day, and Carmelo Anthony is reaching out to his fellow Baltimorean Michael Phelps. These NBA stars have been humbled this time around, and are finally putting on a positive international image for the NBA. They have finally realized that basketball is not just a game for the USA, but a game of the world.

China & Leslie’s Basketball Craze

One of the reasons why the Chinese Olympic team outnumbers the United States’ team is partly because the hosting country is allowed to qualify as many athletes in as many events as they wish. You would think that with this advantage, they would strategically schedule their participating athletes in the most advantageous slots to attain as many golds as possible. However, the Chinese were willing to take a hit in their run to the medal stand by scheduling the Chinese men’s basketball team to play against the physical and dominating Redeem Team.

The scheduling of the Chinese and USA basketball teams’ openers to face each other shows how much the game of basketball has progressed in China not just in popularity but in skill. When I went to China in 1998, the sport of the Chinese was soccer/football. There were quite a few basketball courts in Beijing and Changsha, but football was THE sport. Everyone who was anyone played football. Basketball was just a bit of an afterthought.

Many may argue that the rise in popularity of basketball among the Chinese is attributed to Yao Ming’s draft into the NBA. However, I believe that this surge began just a little before Yao Ming’s time. Wang Zhizhi signed to play with the Dallas Mavericks and Mengke Bateer to the San Antonio Spurs shortly before Yao became a household name in the United States. Honest to goodness, Wang was a terrible player in the NBA, but despite that many Chinese and Chinese-Americans like myself flocked to the Oakland Coliseum to watch him play with the Mavs against the Golden State Warriors, and I am sure that throughout the rest of the country, other Chinese and Chinese-Americans were doing to same at their local NBA venues. Bateer did not have as much luck in the NBA either because after short stints with other NBA teams through trades, they both returned to Asia. Both did not have the star power and publicity of Yao Ming, but the fact that there were two Chinese players who saw some time on the court with the NBA gave the Chinese a new perspective to the game.

After Yao Ming came into the picture, the rest was history and the popularity of basketball reached an new peak in the PRC. Now it seems that basketball has surpassed football in being the most popular sport in China. Funnily enough, the Chinese fans seem to get a much bigger kick with the other NBA players. Yao Ming’s jersey sales in China are only ranked 6th behind other NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant. However, Yao is still the biggest basketball star of China, and possibly the biggest celebrity in China.

The skill level of the Chinese basketball games have also improved. At my mother’s hometown Changsha in my 1998 trip, she brought me to a newly built basketball court near my grandmother’s home. Although I haven’t played in about a month at the time and haven’t cut my nails once throughout the month-long trip, in my brief display of lay-ups on the court as an 11-year-old wearing a squirt and sandals, a nearby spectator asked my mother about me and said that she should leave me in China to train to eventually play for the local Hunan team.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I was not and am not a basketball superstar, though at the time of the incident, I have to admit that I wasn’t a bad player at all. However, my point with this story is to show the evolution of the game of basketball in China. In 1998, in Changsha, they would have been willing to settle to train a 11-year-old Chinese-American who’s basketball skills were only mediocre compared to some of her peers in the United States at the time. If I was an 11-year-old mediocre basketball player in China today, I doubt that I would even get a look by recruiters.

With the popularity of Yao Ming, China has also focused on honing the basketball skills of its players, thus inspiring aspiring young basketball players to hone their skills as well. The Chinese men’s basketball team may not be a favorite to medal this year and have lost by 30 points to the USA team in the 2008 Olympics opener, but they have definitely come a long way. Not even 10 years ago, they probably wouldn’t have even stood a chance of competing against the USA team. Just like their rapid economic and social developments of their country, imagine what the Chinese can do to improve their basketball game in the near future.
The Woe of Living in the PST zone

Call me cocky, but I think I have the right to be about this. I apologize for offending anyone, but I am not trying to offend anyone. I am just expressing my opinions. Plus, I’m really a nice person. I just have a lot of pride in being a Californian and a San Franciscan.

The West Coast is definitely the better side of the United States to be living. Other than New York City in the east, when foreigners imagine the United States, they picture the California coast, beaches, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. However, the ONE and ONLY downfall about living in the Westside is that almost nothing here is televised live. I am extremely disappointed that none of the Olympics coverage is live, though they say it is on NBC. We all know here by the Pacific that everything that we’re watching about the Olympics is taped, and if you didn’t know that before reading this, sorry to break it to you. Thanks to the internet, I already knew that Michael Phelps had won his first gold medal three hours before watching it on NBC.

I believe that this is horribly unfair to the West Coast viewers. We can find out who WORE what, who WINS what, who DID what, and who SAID what in all the major award shows before we can witness it ourselves. And as an avid sports fan, I hate watching taped games. I want to actually witness history in the making, and not witness it 3-hours later than the rest of the country.

I would have been more than willing to wake up at 7AM to catch the LIVE coverage of the USA vs. China men’s basketball game instead of watching a taped version at 10AM with headlines tempting me to click “USA vs. China. Who won?” at 9:50AM PST.


2 comments August 10, 2008

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