The past three days in Beijing, which happen to be my last three days in China, have been filled with a combination of walking, tourism, research, degustation, meeting new people, and melancholy. The latter can be explained by the simple fact that I am nearing the end of my time in this country. However, I’ve been trying not to think about that and instead focus on having the best few days possible. Once you finish reading the summary of my days, you’ll probably agree with me that I’ve succeeded in doing so.
Sunday started off with a short walk to the DongDan outdoor basketball courts, built shortly before the Beijing 2008 Olympics and famous for, amongst other things, their Nike sponsorship. I got there in the late morning, so I was surprised by the small number of people that were there. What I was not surprised by was the gear that these fifteen or so people were wearing to play. I kid you not when I say that most of them had full NBA uniforms on, representing James Harden, Dwayne Wade, or others. They definitely looked the part and I excitedly sat down nearby to watch some of their ongoing scrimmage. However, I quickly noticed that the players were trying moves that they had clearly picked up from their NBA idols, but they didn’t have the basic fundamental skills necessary to perfect them. While I appreciated their effort, I got up and started working out on my own shortly after sitting down. Later, as I packed up my stuff to leave, I noticed that people were starting to show up and crowd around one of the courts. I asked around, and was told that a famous street basketball player, Wu You, would be coming at 4pm. That gave me just enough time to go see Wangfujing.
After navigating the pedestrian street of Wangfujing and its neighboring alleys, where I witnessed people eating live scorpions and grilled cockroaches, I made my way back to the DongDan basketball courts. I arrived just in time, as a line of people was starting to form. I could tell everyone was eager to watch the Sunday Sunset, “one of the most prevailing street basketball activities in Beijing.” Initially, it seemed that anyone and everyone was warming up on one of the courts, with crowds already packing the stands. Eventually, an MC took over and started the show with, from what I could gather, a lot of talk that revolved around the NBA. He was pointing to people’s various jerseys, and apparently making jokes, none of which I grasped. I did however hear somebody say a swear word about Kevin Durant, so I laughed along with everyone else. My evening spent at the courts was something that I’d never experienced before, as I stood in a tight crowd of people, watching Chinese street basketball, and listening to an MC I didn’t understand. Not to mention that I was the only Westerner there, as well as one of maybe four girls, so to say that I stood out would be an understatement.
I had two meetings the following day, included the much-anticipated interview with NBA China CEO David Shoemaker. We discussed things such as the role of government in business, the marketing strategy and success of the NBA, Yao Ming’s impact, the most favored teams by Chinese fans, the search for talent, the league’s merchandising, and finally the decisions that led Shoemaker to China. Before leaving, he praised my newfound interview talents, so I gave my journalist mother a quick shout-out and mentioned that she had taught me well. He also mentioned that he would be keeping tabs on the Brown women’s basketball team next year, so pressure is on girls!
While I’m aware that I only have about 24 hours left in China, I’m determined to make the most of it. I’d argue that I’m going out in style, with a Peking Duck dinner tonight. I will upload my last blog post once I get home, with a summary of my findings and experiences, but for now, I’m off to enjoy a great dinner!