Steve Miller Band
There's a lot more in the full interview, including how Gilbert passes the time in China — he buys DVDs, apparently from a store and not bootleg markets — and how he negotiates the language barrier with teammates.
That's strange, I thought... Who in Shanghai buys legal DVDs from an actual electronics store? Shanghai has some of the best bootleg DVD shops in China; these shops maintain a huge selection of movie DVDs and TV show boxsets (a much, much larger selection than any legal electronics store ever maintains), these DVDs most always retain the special features content present in the legal DVDs (special features content is hit or miss in bootleg copies from other cities), and the quality of the video itself pretty high. So why is he buying his DVDs from legal stores?
Then I took a look at the actual interview.
SLAM: I’ve heard you have been out and about around town, which is something that foreign players don’t do too often in China. They usually just stay in.
GA: Yup. China is known for electronics and I love electronics. I’m usually at the DVD store. I’m always the mall, at the electronics store, buying video games and stuff like that.
"DVD store." My money is on the 'DVD store' indeed being a bootleg shop, not an actual, legal store.
Anyway, I'm glad Gilbert actually seems to be enjoying himself here, is adapting to the culture (he's using Weibo full time, not Twitter), and not making trouble (like some other previous NBA players have).
I recently met an Italian guy who told me the Denver Nuggets' Danilo Gallinari is a basketball hero back in his native Italy. Plays like this can only increase his popularity.
I saw a Chinese friend just now and he was watching a Mandarin language-dubbed version of last night's presidential debate on his phone. He hadn't yet made it to the section in which the candidates speak about China but his initial response to me was, "I think Obama is a much better speaker and I like him because he likes basketball." I was hoping he would see the China-focused section and tell me his thoughts but he ended up switching the stream to a basketball game shortly after I took the below photos.
Jingdi Meilongzhen, Shenzhen
I saw the below ad a few days ago while watching the Olympics. I think everything is fairly accurate; within the next 16 years, China will play the US in the finals of the Olympics. I have no doubt.
A few things that bothered me about the commercial:
- No Chinese kid is watching basketball and wishing to be like Carmelo Anthony; they all want to be Kobe or Lebron.
- I've never witnessed a classroom full of Chinese students all laughing at their teacher. This is a big no-no. Chinese students wouldn't dare laugh at their teacher like in the commercial while she is writing on the board.
- Even when picked first in the NBA draft, the announcer doesn't manage to correctly pronounce 'Meng.' Did Nike do this on purpose? Maybe the Chinese language of 2029 has evolved, or maybe Americans are still ignorant about Chinese pronunciation.
- I have my doubts Cairo will be ready to host the 2030 something Olympics.
- Even in the future, Meng Ling's apartment has tile floors just like every Chinese apartment I've ever been in. Why do I notice this stuff?
No matter how great the above commercial is, it still cannot top one of my all time favorites: the Nike Air Jordan XXI commercial below. I love the music. And hey, it also manages to integrate China into a scene.
Further, given Houston’s prior ties to the Chinese market because of Yao, the team is in better position than most to benefit from Lin’s strong performances. “Culturally, the Chinese market is built on long-term relationships,” says Swaangard. Chinese brands looking to increase their presence in the U.S. — and boost their prestige back home — partnered with the Rockets. For example Anta Sports Products Ltd., a Chinese athletic shoe company with 4,000 retail outlets in that country, inked a four-year arena signage deal with the Rockets back in 2007. Yao helped secure the 20-year, $100 million naming rights deal for Houston’s arena, which opened in 2003. Toyota was looking to expand sales in China, and signed on after Yao’s rookie year. With so many Rocket games being broadcast in China during the Yao era, multinational American companies like Anheuser-Busch and Adidas purchased bilingual Mandarin-English arena signage at the Toyota Center that television viewers could see.
Elsewhere in the article, I did not realize profit from uniform sales (sold outside team-owned stores), are split evenly among all NBA teams:
When a Houston Rockets jersey bearing the name of Jeremy Lin is sold in China — or in a retail outlet in suburban Houston or anywhere else in the U.S., for that matter, outside of a team-owned store — that money does not flow directly to the Rockets. It’s split among the NBA’s 30 teams.
First Yao Ming and now Jeremy Lin.
The Houston Rockets have just acquired Jeremy 'Linsanity' Lin by way of New York not matching the Rocket's contract offer. I was not in the US when Linsanity occurred; I came across an article one day about the Linsanity madness, googled Lin's name, and my computer was suddenly flooded with articles, tweets, and YouTube videos about the craziness that had transpired the previous two weeks. I had completely missed it. I did retroactively watch his game against the Lakers in which he scored almost 40 points and America when insane.
Linsanity occurred the first two weeks of February and by April he was already the face of Volvo's China marketing campaign. You have to wonder if the Rockets not only acquired Lin for his basketball skills but also for his marketability in China. The organization certainly has experience marketing its brand in the country. This from ESPN:
Speaking of Yao, his time in Houston helped the Rockets establish brand awareness and business relationships in China that Lin can now capitalize on.
I would stagger a guess that Lin, if he continues to start games and plays well, will become much more popular with the younger generation of Chinese than Yao Ming ever was. Yao gave Chinese kids the ability to hope and dream that they too could someday play in the NBA but ask any kid who their favorite player is and you will never hear 'Yao Ming' as an answer. Chinese kids and young adults like flashy plays, three pointers, and huge dunks. They like Kobe, James, and Durant. Every Chinese kid wants to be in the NBA just like Yao Ming was but they don't want to be Yao Ming. Lin is the fast, exciting, play-making point guard that Chinese kids actually want to impersonate. Yao was sluggish and boring in comparison.
Now that Lin is signed to the Rockets and will most likely be their starting point guard for the next year or two, I'm very interested to see how he is accepted by international marketers and the Chinese public. Ask a Chinese kid the basketball player he (or she) wants to be and you will never hear him utter the word 'Yao.' Will you instead hear the word 'Lin' in the upcoming year?
Time will tell.
Beijing Auto Show. Beijing, China
I'll offer my Chinese class this morning as an example.
For one activity, each student had to think of a really famous person and describe the person using Chinese without saying the person's name. The rest of the students would then have to guess the celebrity.
Our Chinese teacher went first. She said in Chinese, "I am thinking of an American, but his face looks Chinese." Immediately my American classmate shouted, "Jeremy Lin!"
We then spent the next 15 minutes discussing Jeremy Lin. Our teacher explained how her boyfriend now talks about Lin all the time and how many parents think he is a very good example for children; he is smart, successful, and very modest.
We then had fun explaining to the teacher all of the puns from the past two weeks: linsanity, linderella story, all he does is lin, and so on.
My prediction: If he keeps this up, Jeremy Lin will be much more popular with today's Chinese youth than Yao Ming ever was. While Yao Ming will always be admired, he wasn't a flashy player. If you asked any youth who was their favorite player at the time, most would have said Kobe or James. Very few would mention Yao unless you asked them directly about him.
But Lin has that flash. He can drive the lane and dunk. He can shoot threes. He can spin dribble. Chinese youth like basketball and they like flashy plays and flashy players. Yao Ming was a pioneer but he was not the type of player Chinese youth want to imitate.
Friend: "Hey you, come here buddy... Need to tell you something... Okay, ready? Want to go into business with me? I have a great plan to expand my American sports league. Let me tell you about it... I'm taking my sports league to China. The Chinese people love my sport. I already have a plan to build 20+ stadiums and investors have already provided $250+ million in funding. So we're publicly announcing our plans tomorrow!"
You: "That's great. Do you have any competitors in China?"
You: "Oh. Who?"
Friend: "There is a large national league of the same sport owned by the Chinese government."
You: "Hmm. Have you spoken to anyone in the government about your plans?"
You: "Have you contacted the rival league about possible cooperation?"
You: "Is your plan even entirely legal under Chinese law?"
Friend: "Do they have laws over there? Haha, just kidding. I'm sure it'll be fine. So... do you want to be my partner?"
What would you say to your friend? Would you agree to be a partner? Is he/she starting the project with a good foundation? Does he/she and all involved know what the hell they are doing?
I would personally respond to my friend by saying, "This is a joke, right?.. Right???"
The 'Friend' in the above text is in fact the National Basketball Association. And according to a damning New York Times article, the NBA has been completely inept in its Chinese expansion plans. Besides its focus on the NBA, I believe the article offers valuable observations about doing any sort of business here.
Foreign companies doing business in China must inevitably navigate the country’s distinctive brand of “state capitalism,” in which the invisible hand of the market is often hard to free from the tentacles of the authoritarian government. The companies that do best usually exercise patience, maintain a low profile and are careful not to give the state cause to regard them as a threat. When the N.B.A. revealed its ambitious plans for China, it was pursuing the logical next step to expand its already successful business there. But the logic of the Chinese state was very different. As Arthur Kroeber, the managing director of GK Dragonomics, a business consultancy in Beijing, puts it, “Foreign companies that come in here with announced, large, grand strategies — as well as these grand statements about what they are going to achieve — rarely are going to get there.” Stern and the N.B.A. owners were able to handle the players’ union in the lockout. The People’s Republic of China is proving much, much tougher.
Repeat after me: Patience. Low profile. Non-threatening.
in late 2006, Stern mentioned during the Reuters Media Summit in New York that the N.B.A. was also considering having its own league in China. Privately, N.B.A. officials were exploring how to incorporate an N.B.A. subsidiary company as a separate Chinese entity. In 2007, they made presentations to prospective investors and raised $253 million from some of China’s most powerful private and state-owned companies, as well as from ESPN/Disney.
Patience. Low Profile. Non-threatening.
Stern’s comments [about the NBA's China expansion plans] at the Reuters Summit, delivered almost as an aside, were quickly picked up in the Chinese media and caught the attention of the man who then ran the C.B.A. [China Basketball Association], Li Yuanwei. A former college professor, Li was known as a reformer who admired the N.B.A.’s business model. I spoke with Li during my season following the Shanxi Brave Dragons, and he recalled being stunned when he learned about Stern’s plans for an N.B.A. league.
“He had never said this before to us,” Li said. “If he had said he wanted to cooperate with the C.B.A., then that would have been understandable. But he didn’t say a word, which meant he knew nothing about China.”
Some C.B.A. officials told me that they wondered if the N.B.A. fully understood Chinese law, which made it very difficult to form a league without approval from the government, which, after all, ran the C.B.A.
Patience. Low Profile. Non-threatening.
Surprisingly, the NBA's expansion plans went nowhere. They finally opened up communication with the CBA about cooperation, but progress has been very slow.
Moral of the story? Think before you act. Look at the competitive landscape. Think about the various players. Consider actions and reactions, causes and effects. And have a solid plan to evaluate feasibility. Not even one of the most powerful sports leagues on the planet can simply walk into China and have its way. Don't simply be smart; be China smart.
A few other take aways from the article:
But the top official in the Chinese league is a creature of the old age, an old-school Communist Party bureaucrat named Xin Lancheng, who put his foot down, prohibiting Chinese teams from signing N.B.A. players who were already under contract at the time of the lockout. Only free agents would be eligible — and they would have to sign that binding contract. This was partly about pride, and arrogance, but it was also consistent with an ethos that has prevailed since China opened itself to the outside world in 1978: foreigners are not invited to China to profiteer; they are invited to make the Chinese better. Even N.B.A. players.
Great quote. "Foreigners are not invited to China to profiteer; they are invited to make the Chinese better." The first thought that popped into my head after reading this is the foreign automakers that have to partner with Chinese automakers before being allowed to sell in China. The foreign automakers could not simply profit off of the Chinese economy. They had to share technology, in the process improving Chinese automaker's products.
I have been somewhat unkind to Stephon Marbury in previous blog posts, but it seems from this article he really has improved his conduct and is gelling with both his fanbase and basketball officials.
Having found that N.B.A. teams either no longer wanted him or no longer wanted to pay him what he thought he was worth, Marbury moved to China three seasons ago and is now the country’s most beloved foreign player, starring for the Beijing Ducks, professing his love for the country, riding the Beijing subway to show the common touch (and posting photographs of himself doing so on his microblog). Marbury has proved himself a good citizen and a shrewd marketer; he is now promoting his discounted line of Starbury sneakers in the Chinese market. When I mentioned Marbury’s name to Bai Xilin, the C.B.A. official, Bai jumped out of his chair and pantomimed Marbury — Ma Bu Li! — directing lay-up drills, as he has been reported doing by the Chinese press. “The other foreign players are just sitting on the bench in warm-ups and don’t take part,” Bai said. “It looks arrogant, extremely arrogant. He knows how to be part of the culture of a Chinese team and with Chinese society.”
It is a souvenir from Chandler’s unlikely Chinese adventure. He has visited the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing, ridden the bullet train to Shanghai and begun his own Chinese microblog (a version of Twitter, with Chinese censors)
Unlike the real version of Twitter, with American censors.
You need to leave right now. Is it that hard to play one year of basketball in China without you or your family getting into fistfights and choking people? Again, thank you J.R. and your family for all you're doing to help improve the image of Americans in this country. I wholeheartedly appreciate your wonderful effort.
This morning I woke up to stories about Georgetown's on court brawl with a Chinese PLA basketball team during a goodwill tour of China. As soon as I saw the headlines, I assumed the Georgetown players were the ones who instigated the fight and caused problems on court (based on my other experiences in China, most brawls between Chinese and foreigners start because the foreigners did something stupid that they shouldn't have done). So naturally I thought the same for this story.
But after reading this account of the game (along with some other quotes), it seems the Chinese team was the one who instigated the brawl (look at that picture above - that's insane). I wish there was video of the entire game, because the refs called a hugely lopsided number of fouls on Georgetown and I would want to watch the game footage to see for myself.
Then the foul calls truly took on a comical dimension. We supposedly fouled them every time down the court, despite some really good defense on some possessions. There were four or five intentional fouls called, giving them four shots each time down the court. JT3 was called for a technical for stepping over the line onto the court. I counted Bayi scoring two field goals in the entire third quarter. I don't know what the count was, but I would not be surprised if they shot 45-50 FTs through three quarters, and we shot 6-10. I honestly think the foul count was likely in the range of 30 or 35 to 5-7.
The scariest quote of the whole story is this:
and then people on the Chinese bench started picking up chairs.
I can only imagine the sight of PLA soldier basketball players picking up chairs and starting to walk onto the court would be one of the scariest of my life.
I am sure more will come out in the American press about this incident but not sure about the Chinese press. Interested to learn more, especially about the PLA team.
Update: So after further reading, the team is made up of future Army personnel, similar to the American Army and Naval college teams. Who knows if much of the aggression the Chinese team showed was due in part to this military background.
Its founding team members served in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The "Bayi" in their name represents the anniversary of the founding of the PLA. There are also other army teams with the Bayi name in other sports leagues, such as Bayi China Telecom in the WCBA, the men's soccer team Bayi Zhengbang, and the women's soccer team Bayi Xiangtan. [Wikipedia]
Dwyane Wade, NBA all-star, took part in a charity event/brand unveiling with watch company Hublot. What struck me about the photos from the event were the lack of people in the audience. It's a charity event, and China youth are basketball crazy. They really couldn't find more children to bring in to watch Wade play? It seems there were a few children that got to play with him, but not many. I understand this is an event put on by a luxury company, but it certainly would have made a few more kids very, very happy.
As a Chinese lesson for the day, I asked a workmate what the characters stood for in the background of one of his promotional shots. The first two characters (top and bottom left) are 太庙 (tai miao). These characters stand for an imperial temple. She couldn't identify the second two characters though. She said the temple was not the Forbidden City (as I had originally thought).