Forget ping-pong. The sport of choice in the People’s Republic of China is now basketball. I discovered this in the UK, when I joined (was cajoled into joining) the Selwyn College Basketball team, and realized that MOST of the team was actually Chinese. We had two Americans, two Brits, a German, a Greek, a Latvian, and then five Chinese students.
When I asked them where they’d learned to play basketball they laughed. “China of course.”
I would later gather that in China, basketball is a national passion. Outdoor courts stretch across miles in the big cities, leaving the once fiercely beloved ping pong tables strangely quiet.
How did basketball become China’s number one sport? The answer is largely through the tactical use of media deals by NBA commissioner David Stern. Add the development of Yao Ming and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and you get Basketball as it is today in China: played by over 300 million people, and watched on tv by millions more.
The full essay I wrote gives the full story: