Learn­ing, giv­ing back through play­ing hoops

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICAS - BY JACK FREIFELDER in New York jack­freifelder@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Get­ting drafted into the Amer­i­can Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) can be a life-chang­ing event. It is the cul­mi­na­tion of years of hard work, per­se­ver­ance and ded­i­ca­tion, but for some, it is also the chance to start giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity.

“With­out the fans and their love, we don’t have a job, so you have to show ap­pre­ci­a­tion for them,” Klay Thomp­son, a mem­ber of the NBA’s Golden State War­riors, told China Daily in an in­ter­view.

“When you in­ter­act with the com­mu­nity, the fans feel like they’re a part of some­thing big­ger than just watch­ing a bas­ket­ball game — they feel like they’re a part of our team,’’ he said.

In his time with the War­riors, al­beit brief, Thomp­son has al­ready be­come one of the league’s high­est-scor­ing play­ers (av­er­ag­ing 21.6 points per game en­ter­ing Mon­day).

And as one of the of­fen­sive lead­ers of his team, Thomp­son helps guide the ship for the team with the best record in the NBA (22-3 en­ter­ing play on Mon­day).

“We did not ex­pect to be here, but we’re play­ing re­ally well right know,” Thomp­son said. “Th­ese last few years we’re try­ing to es­tab­lish our­selves as one of the elite teams in the NBA. I think our pop­u­lar­ity in China is grow­ing too be­cause we’ve got­ten so much bet­ter.”

In ad­di­tion to se­cur­ing a spot on the US Men’s Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Team in July, the 24-year-old shoot­ing guard has al­ready been to China with the league twice.

In June 2013, Thomp­son took part in the NBA Na­tion pro­gram in China. The three­month pro­gram made stops in 12 Chi­nese ci­ties, in­clud­ing Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shang­hai, and Tian­jin.

Thomp­son, who vis­ited Xi’an and Chengdu, was one of two War­riors play­ers to make the trip. He also took part in a num­ber of events, in­clud­ing the NBA Fit Clinic, a pro­gram that works to pro­mote ac­tive life­styles through a se­ries of player-led drills and ex­er­cises.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, Thomp­son and his team­mates trav­eled to China to play ex­hi­bi­tion games against the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers in Beijing (Oct 15) and Shang­hai (Oct 18). In ad­di­tion to the on-court ac­tion, play­ers also took part in NBA Cares out­reach events, in­clud­ing a trip to visit stu­dents at a read­ing and learn­ing Cen­ter in Beijing.

The 2013 visit to China was the War­riors’ sec­ond visit to China as part of the NBA Global Games. The War­riors first played in China dur­ing the 2008-2009 sea­son.

Since then, the War­riors have been one of the teams lead­ing the NBA when it comes to out­reach with fans in China and the Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can com­mu­nity.

In Oc­to­ber 2013, the GSW launched a Chi­nese-lan­guage ver­sion of their web­page and an of­fi­cial Weibo ac­count for the team to bet­ter in­ter­act with Chi­nese fans, both do­mes­ti­cally and abroad.

The team is also one of the pi­o­neers for the NBA’s Chi­nese New Year (CNY) cel­e­bra­tion, a week­long cel­e­bra­tion that be­gan in 2012.

Dur­ing this year’s in­stall­ment of the NBA’s CNY cel­e­bra­tion, which ran from Jan 28 to Feb 4, the NBA streamed 23 live NBA broad­casts to mil­lions of fans in China.

Ten teams around the league took part in the NBA’s 2014 Chi­nese New Year cel­e­bra­tion, pay­ing trib­ute to Chi­nese cul­ture through inarena mu­si­cal per­for­mances, showcases of Asian cui­sine and Chi­nese ads.

NBA China, head­quar­tered in Beijing, is an arm of the NBA formed in Jan­uary 2008 to spearhead the league’s business in China. The NBA in China has re­la­tion­ships with a num­ber of tele­vi­sion and dig­i­tal me­dia part­ners, in­clud­ing a part­ner­ship of more than 25 years with China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion (CCTV).

Thomp­son said bas­ket­ball fans in China have a real “thirst for knowl­edge” when it comes to learn­ing about the game of bas­ket­ball. “In my ex­pe­ri­ence from go­ing over to China, in gen­eral, the Chi­nese fans love the game,” he said. “To know you have an in­flu­ence on so many peo­ple across the world, it’s cool just to be able to see that with the pre­sea­son games played in Beijing and Shang­hai.”

Thomp­son said Cal­i­for­nia’s Bay Area is home to a large Chi­nese-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion, so it’s im­por­tant to in­clude them in the team’s over­all com­mu­nity out­reach ef­forts.

“It’s cool that we get to cel­e­brate Chi­nese New Year, es­pe­cially last year be­cause it was the Year of the Horse and my Chi­nese sign is the Horse,” he said. “That was unique to me, but it speaks for it­self be­cause we have so many fans. We’ve got some pretty hum­ble guys on our team and we love in­ter­act­ing with the com­mu­nity.”

Bas­ket­ball play­ers are not of­ten hon­ored for their of­f­court feats, but oc­ca­sion­ally the work that play­ers do in the com­mu­nity re­ceives its due recog­ni­tion.

Thomp­son said events like the NBA’s Global Games ini­tia­tive help grow the league’s in­ter­na­tional fan base, and the chance to host a league-wide Chi­nese New Year cel­e­bra­tion gives an added push to those en­deav­ors.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Klay Thomp­son, a shoot­ing guard with the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s (NBA) Golden State War­riors, in­ter­acts with Chi­nese stu­dents dur­ing an Oc­to­ber 2013 trip to Beijing.

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