Out of My League

All of that changed

when I entered the newly built gymnasium on the campus of Beijing

Normal University and came face to waist with the members of the USA

Men’s basketball team.

I have been a

basketball fan since Larry Bird was still soaring around the Boston

Garden and have watched thousands of games on TV. But television does

not do justice to the actual size and intimidation of these NBA

superstars. As I walked star struck across the hardwood floor I knew

I was living the dream of many Chinese students who have English

names like Kobe and Kidd in honor of these gifted basketball players.

Every member of the

“Redeem Team” (nicknamed because their goal is to restore

American basketball dominance and win an Olympic gold) is a

superstar. But there are superstars and then there are global

superstars. That is why all the reporters rushed to interview Kobe

Bryant, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Their faces adorn billboards

around China. Kids imitate their moves, not Yao Ming’s, on the

playground. So this frenzy left Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard and

Chris Bosh sitting on a bench completely unmolested. Shocked that

these stars amongst stars were not being interviewed I decided to

approach Chris Bosh.

Bosh, who plays for the

Toronto Raptors of the NBA, is 2.25 meters tall, earned more than US

$14 million last season alone, is younger than me and has a dreadlock

hair cut that makes it look like a tarantula is sitting on his head.

Needless to say he is intimidating.

With shaking hands, I

clutched my reporter’s notebook and asked him stupidly if this

was his first time in China. He shook his head dismissively and,

addressing me as dude, said he had been here plenty of times. Like a

broken record stuck on an outdated and forgotten song I asked him

what he thought about the Middle Kingdom. He said he loved the

culture and the people and other such things I never heard because I

kept thinking: I am talking to Chris Bosh. I am talking to Chris

Bosh. When he finished speaking I had nothing else, so I extended my

hand and said thanks. He looked at me with weary eyes and thankfully

another reporter, seeing my ship sinking, swooped in and asked an

actual meaningful question.

With confidence

dangerously low, I moved over to the 2.25 meter, 120 kg, 22-year-old

Dwight Howard who has shoulders so wide you could park a

sixteen-wheeler between them. As I found out, Howard has been to

China seven times through various roles with the NBA. He said, “the

Chinese are some of my favorite people in the world. I love watching

them do their thing. It’s beautiful.” I was going to ask

what exactly “their thing” was but I felt that might come

off as sarcastic and I feared Howard would crush me like a walnut

between his biceps. Instead I said good luck and affectionately pat

him on the shoulder, which actually hurt my hand.

As I contemplated a new

career, I listened in on Dwayne Wade’s interview. I heard him

say that he was excited to play against China on August 10 and that

he felt the “Chinese would love it because they could watch

both of their teams.”

Wade was right. More

than one billion people watched the United States beat China 101-70,

making it the most watched game in basketball history.

I too felt like I had

participated in history even though my own performance in front of

these superstars would have left me cut from any reporter’s

dream team. But I had seen up close and with my own eyes the best

basketball players in the world do their thing. And Dwight Howard was

right it. It was beautiful.