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BRAVE DRAGONS by Jim Yardley


A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing

by Jim Yardley

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-27221-8
Publisher: Knopf

A unique, engaging way to view the Americanization of China: through the introduction of an NBA coach to a professional Chinese basketball team.

New York Times journalist Yardley honed in on a fantastically implausible, ultimately cautionary tale of how the Chinese and American ways often mix like oil and water. On one hand, the enthusiastic Chinese steel entrepreneur Boss Wang, owner of the Shanxi Brave Dragons, wanted to incorporate American-style basketball so badly that in 2008 he hired former NBA player and coach Bob Weiss to come to China and turn around his losing team. On the other hand, Boss Wang ultimately hired a Chinese coach to run the daily practices because of deep-seated fears about discipline, thus undermining most of what Weiss was trying to instill in his young Chinese players. Weiss inherited a team with the worst record in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA); they were convinced they were “defective.” Working out of a bleak warehouse in Taiyuan, once ranked as the most polluted city in the world, Weiss had to use an interpreter to communicate with the players and with his assistant Chinese coach, Liu Tie, who strong-armed the team during practices and simply kept them going all the time—not Weiss’ style. Indeed, the basketball players had been selected early on in elementary school, chosen from X-rays of their skeletal structure determining projections of tallness. It was a motley team made up of misfits, such as a shortish Taiwanese player, nicknamed Little Sun, mercilessly taunted by Coach Liu for playing “Taiwan independence defense”; and several foreign hirelings such as NBA bad boy Bonzi Wells, who played a few games then fizzled. The Dragons didn’t end so shabbily, although the lessons in teaching American marketing and know-how only went so far.

An expert journalist compresses the culture class of nations into one palatable sports season.