In case you didn’t notice the billboards and metroTV ads, the NBA and basketball in general is a pretty big deal here in Shanghai. Still not convinced? The California Dream Basketball Clinic would have changed your mind.
This past Monday, Visit California brought Sacramento Kings Center Willie “Trill” Cauley-Stein down to Shanghai Stadium’s outdoor basketball park. The Clinic was emceed by G Sport Channel basketball commentator Zhuang Ning Yu, who ref’d and herded an afternoon of basketball fun and games between Willie and Shanghai’s own Youth Team players.
The Shanghai Youth Team, coached by Yao Ming’s former Shanghai Sharks teammate Li Ye, had individuals and groups of players go up against Willie and his friends in a few rounds of shooting competitions and casual pickup games. The games were as fun to watch as they must have been to play, as everyone involved was all smiles and laughs even during shouted curses, mock anger at missed calls, and the occasional foul. The game, strangely enough, ended in a draw, which doesn’t really ever happen in basketball.
Everyone then took a break for a guessing game of impressions/charades about popular NBA players. And yes, these kids watch enough NBA to be weirdly decent at mocking and recognizing players’ tics, quirks, and moments of infamy. Lookin’ at you, Ron Artest. Afterwards, players volunteered for a drill-running contest. Whoever ran a dribbling and shooting drill the best won a free trip for two to California.
The basketball clinic closed out with a 4v4 pickup game that pitted two squads of Youth Team players against each other, one team coached by Willie and the other by Li Ye. You’ve never seen a group of players more willing to put up a 25-footer, or scream “And one!” whenever putting up a contested layup.
There was a winner, but overall everyone’s a winner, right? At least when it comes to having fun, and loving the game.