What’s up #FlightNation!!!!
I’m trying to keep this blog going, but I needed to take some time and actually enjoy our trip. We had the last few days off while we were in Beijing, and we definitely made the most of it. First stop was the Silk Street market. We might be a team if men, but whoa…we sure did shop. Everything was so much cheaper. Was everything real? Ehhh…hope so. HAH! I got a couple pairs of shoes, among quite a few other things.
Silk Street was a lot like Canal St. in NYC. We definitely got our bartering game up. I’ve had my share of hits in other countries (including a $12 can if coke in Abu Dabi a few years ago), but I did some solid bartering in Beijing. Can’t wait to bring the stuff back to my family.
We also went to the Great Wall of China, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. It…was…breathtaking…and GRUELING!!!! HAHAHAHA Three of us (Chevy, Shane and I) made it to Station 12, which I’m told is the highest point of the wall. Thankfully, I was smart enough to buy a cane and a fly Chinese hat (have no idea what it’s actually called). The cane probably kept me from tripping on the stairs 5-6 times (when I got extremely tired) and the hat kept me from getting sunburn. The views were amazing. To think they built this wall centuries ago via forced labor and far less technology is all the wonder. The wall was built to keep invaders from the north at bay. I told the fellas that if I’m Mongolia or Russia or whatever, and I’m trying to invade, at about 20 minutes in I call my troops together and say, “Hey y’all…let’s just head back home. This isn’t worth it!” HAHAHA!!! I can’t even imagine trying to fight someone after climbing this wall. It’s intense. I thought the 99 steps at the University of Pikeville was tough (and it certainly was tough). The Great Wall was way to real!
Yesterday was a complete off day with nothing scheduled at all, so we decided to go to an outdoor court and hoop with the locals. That was also an incredible experience. For me, the passion I’m seeing from China basketball is reminiscent of the late 80’s and early 90’s in the US. The excitement for the game of basketball is at a feverish pitch. They absolutely love this game.
We must have played two hours. I even got in on some action. I’d been craving to play so bad. It was also nice to go back to my roots of playground (outdoor) basketball. Given I killed my body the day before at the Great Wall, I was struggling quite a bit to make shots. Fortunately it was me, Shane, Brandon Moss and Manadou N’Dyie on the same team, so we had plenty of talent. At least I still had my ball handling in tact. I must say though: it’s very tough to play at the level I’ve played in the past and compare it to now. Age is no respect or if persons.
In spite of my play, we definitely pulled in a huge crowd of locals who got to watch. The spot was super cool. It was a basketball court right outside a bunch of stores and a Burger King, which was also next to a main road. Great, great spot to hoop.
Obviously we ran the court with Florida Flight players. Our team won 3-4 games before losing to another group of our players (Alvin, Korval and Kenny) who picked up one local, which, as a coach, I thought was super cool. They won another 3-4 games themselves, and afterwards took a few pictures. Afterwards, Korval actually gave his basketball shoes to the Chinese teammate playing with them. It was so classy, and he was so flattered and appreciative. He even touched Korval’s sweaty arm and rubbed the sweat on himself (crazy weird but also flattering).
Afterwards we went back to the hotel to watch the film from the last game. We’ve GOTTA play better than that last game against Serbia. It was the first back to back game with long travel that any of us had experienced in quite some time, but we definitely noticed some little things while watching the film that we could’ve and should’ve done better to keep the game tighter. That’s what being a pro is all about. A lot of players in the US think they can play at this level, but pro basketball requires so much more mental capacity and strength, accountability and responsibility than most are used to. You have to use your mind, think quickly on your feet, recognize patterns and habits to exploit from your opponents, etc. it’s just not as easy as showing up on the court, going one on one and trying to play off rhythm. It’s why there is such a huge gap between the percentages of people who actually play professionally vs. those who want to play. It’s not easy.
I think this trip has also been eye opening to players seeking a contract to play overseas. The food is different, the language barrier is a lot more challenging than most of us thought it would be, and some of the cultural differences take some getting used to. The other part is we are together as a team with 15 Americans. International teams often have a player import restriction (China’s is a 2 import players max I believe). That means there might be one more American with you (and when performance is not high a move for another import typically happens. So it’s likely to be much more lonely for a player abroad. Factor in having a wife and kids back home in the states, and what you’re sacrificing is quite a bit.
On my own personal note, I’ve really struggled being away from home for so long, and we still have another week left. I’ve realized that these missed days with my family can not be gotten back. That’s been tough to deal with. I cannot imagine how players and coaches did this 15-20 years ago without the technology we now have. Fortunately I can see and talk to my wife and kids via WhatsApp. It’s a 12 hour difference, so schedules are tough to mesh, but at least it’s an option. That wasn’t an option even a few years ago. I wish my family could’ve joined be for this trip. That would’ve been amazing. Maybe on the next one.
I’m not complaining though. We are probably in the top 5% of people seeking to play professionally in other countries who have actually gotten an opportunity like this. That’s pretty humbling. It took us 10 years, but we did it. Now…to win the rest of our games and prove we can play at this level.
We’ve got a little over 2 more hours on this train before we get to Nanjing. We practice tonight at 7:00pm. This is a very important game for us. We’d appreciate your prayers as we prepare!
Until next time…