How Would Jeremy Lin Fare in a Pickup Game in Beijing?

A 20-something American now working as a translator in China sends this report:

Having lived in Beijing for five years now, I've played in more than my share of Chinese pickup games. Something that becomes obvious very quickly is that people here--especially young people--model their games more on the Kobes of the world than the Nashes. While you will sometimes see someone who's a willing distributor, or someone who has an outside shot, many times pickup games here quickly degenerate into a series of dueling "drive-to-the-hoop/rebound/kick-out" possessions. Setting picks is rare, the pick-and-roll is even rarer, and the concept of spacing on offense is practically non-existent (actually, now that I think about it, I'm probably doing Kobe a disservice. At least he knows how to come off a pick!).

Why? One of the Chinese micro-blog users you quoted cites the system as the main reason why China has yet to produce a great point guard. I completely agree. Despite the prevailing stereotype of "collectivist" Asians, in basketball, at least, people here aren't taught how to function as a team. And it shows on the pickup court. Or at least it does in Beijing (You harp constantly on China's diversity, and you're completely right on that count. Maybe they ball it up differently in Guangzhou!).

Just part of expanding the data-set on how "Asians" bring their special, spatial perspective to ball sports.

The other notable aspect of this message, of course, is that the reader has evidently been away from a native-English environment long enough that he says "harp constantly on" when he means "devote admirably consistent attention to." Otherwise, excellent note!

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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