Posts Tagged ‘Basketball’

LeBron in China

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Travel
Tags: , ,

Basketball is huge in China. Walk onto any college campus, and you’ll see a hundred people shooting hoops.

陕西师范大学篮球 - Shaanxi Normal University Basketball

I don’t play the game myself; most of my sports interests are focused on climbing and Ultimate, but that’s another conversation. I do follow college hoops and the NBA at a cursory level, and everyone in the world has heard of LeBron James. After watching an hour of The Decision, there isn’t a fan of basketball who doesn’t know who he is. Due to the lack of an NBA team in Seattle, I’ve never been able to see him play in person, and I doubt I’ll be enough of a San Antonio fan to drive up from Austin to San Antonio in the coming years.

Never in a hundred years did I expect to see LeBron in 西安. I was walking towards 师大 (Normal University) yesterday when my friend calls me up, and tells me to head over to the basketball courts. “LeBron James is here, come quick!” he exclaims. As I draw close to the courts, loud thumping music and the roar of a crowd reveals the truth behind my friend’s claim.

Hundreds of people trying to get closer to King James

As part of a Nike promotional event, King James is touring parts of China for the next week. One of his stops was 西安, along with 北京 (Beijing) and 上海 (Shanghai). Through local tournaments, amateur teams gained the opportunity to play a game with LeBron coaching them; he switched coaching duties between the teams at halftime. Pictures were taken, posters were signed, and the crowd roared when he put on an impromptu dunking clinic at the end of the event.

Image stolen from

I could claim that I got close enough to take pictures such as the one above, but that would be a lie. Instead, my pictures of LeBron are the following:

Hundreds of people await his arrival

Seen through the lens of a camera raised high above my head

Getting into his blacked-out van

People are just as fan-obsessed out here as they are in the States. To be fair, LeBron was an excellent host, even greeting his fans in broken Chinese. He did everything he could to give his fans as much face-time as he could. He showed grace and character, and the crowd replied with ever increasing enthusiasm.

LeBron James is just a man who happens to be really, really good at basketball. And China loves him.