China and the National Basketball Association are doing a lot to promote basketball in the country.
The NBA manages the Wukesong Gymnasium in west Beijing, where the interior looks like any other North American basketball stadium complete with sound effects and electronic banners.
And the NBA regularly sends it stars to China, like Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant a few months ago, and most recently Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets, teammate of Yao Ming's.
This afternoon while I was getting my hair cut, the TV was on and it was a light entertainment/talk show with four hosts. Yes, like The View, except it's two girls and two guys dressed in similar-themed outfits, except they stand around on a large stage and do some fun contests with their guests.
Today it was Shane Battier, and despite the language barrier, they seemed to make the interview work; it was pre-taped and so there were subtitles when Battier was speaking. One wonders if most of the studio audience understood what he was saying or that had to be translated too, but it didn't seem to matter as the crowd was so excited to see the 6-foot 2-inch star in person. His female translator had to stand on a stool to be somewhat close to his ear without him having to lean over too much.
The hosts asked him about his personal life, like how he met his wife, Heidi Ufer. He explained that when he was 13-years-old he knew she would be his future wife, but it took him five years to convince her. They have a 15-month-old son Zeke, and they showed a few pictures of him and his son.
Then it was time for some antics. First they had him acting out different things and one of the hosts had to identify what it was. He was a good sport, doing a good impression of a washing machine, a chicken and a pug.
After that it was what he did best -- basketball. Two much shorter Chinese guys came on stage and tried to outplay him, each doing a short routine and he had to try to replicate the moves. He did well and even challenged them to bounce two basketballs, one in each hand and then at different heights, one at waist level, the other much lower.
Following that was shooting, and again a similar thing, where he had to follow their snazzy layups, some of which went in, and in Battier's case a few did not go in.
The most fun was when they invited a cartoonist to come show the audience how to draw Yao Ming. The hosts and Battier followed the cartoonist, who first taught them how to draw Yao Ming (basically using a square). Then Battier was invited to judge which one was the best. Some members of the audience also drew Yao too.
Then it was time to draw Battier. The shape of his head? A bulbous gourd that curves in the middle. Some drew hilarious portraits of Battier, and he went over to inspect them and asked aloud, "Does that look like me?" which got gales of laughter from the studio audience.
That was the end of the show, which was fun, entertaining, and most of all, Battier has secured his Chinese fan base.