Basketball in China

In my time traveling both internationally and domestically, I’ve found no better common ground than sports. For Taiwanese kids, sports are king. The pickup culture is prevalent and the locales are equally eager to play and meet new people, even 外国人。Heading to the public courts has always been a treat and the potpourri of playing levels and styles makes it easy for anyone to hop in for a few games of 4v4.

Thus far, my short time spent across the strait has proven to be no different and the university lifestyle, compared to a tourist’s perspective, fosters even greater opportunities to engage with local students. However, I must admit, approaching the campus outdoor basketball courts for the first time was a bit daunting and observing the subtle differences from my previous basketball experiences warranted a slightly longer warm-up as Alex and I adjusted to some new customs. Immediately we noticed every court with zx competitive game was 4v4 half court. Every other court was used to shoot around until the magic number 8 was achieved. We also noticed that all the games were “make it, take it”, there was no “check” before points, and no “change” after making shots during warm-up. Understanding these subtle, but familiar nuances however, created a very open, and welcoming atmosphere for us.

We quickly scouted the playing field and found a perfect group of 6 guys shooting around on the far end of the court. With my thick American accent, I asked if we could join them and they immediately introduced themselves, first in Chinese, followed by an English name. As always, I dropped my Taiwanese heritage and was immediately directed a Taiwanese guy, Leon. He told me about Fudan’s Taiwanese students and asked me to look into it afterwards.

Then, our new friends taught us a new way of picking teams. Our group of 9 assembled a tight circle as we were told to throw out a jiandao, shitou, or zhi, which would randomly separate, us into three teams of three to accommodate our odd number. As we played game after game, I was reminded of how slow and large my “game” was compared to their swift, quick playing style. But what remained similar to playing back home was the way the game slowly dissolved as we wore ourselves out. Both teams transitioned out of quick ball movement and strategic shot making to long three pointers and Cinderella sky hooks, similar to long nights spent outside on courts at Davidson. Eventually we parted ways, but not without the cell phone number of my new Taiwanese contact, Leon.

This experience reminded me that sports can promote equality and openness. Despite our weak Chinese proficiency and having no prior experience of basketball in China, we were able to connect with 7 other strangers from completely different backgrounds. We learned each other’s habits and weakness, our strengths and unique skills, until we became as cohesive as 3 complete strangers could be within 20 minutes of meeting each other. A fun and positive experience leaves me excited to explore other sports at Fudan including those that I’m very familiar with but also those foreign to me.