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From the former New York Times Beijing bureau chief, a closely observed story of a struggling Chinese basketball team and its quixotic, often comical attempt to make the playoffs by copying the American stars of the NBA?a season of cultural misunderstanding that would transcend sports and reveal China's ambivalent relationship with the West.
When the worst professional basketball team in China, the Shanxi Brave Dragons, hired former NBA ...
From the former New York Times Beijing bureau chief, a closely observed story of a struggling Chinese basketball team and its quixotic, often comical attempt to make the playoffs by copying the American stars of the NBA—a season of cultural misunderstanding that would transcend sports and reveal China's ambivalent relationship with the West.
When the worst professional basketball team in China, the Shanxi Brave Dragons, hired former NBA coach Bob Weiss to improve its fortunes, the team's owner, Boss Wang, promised that Weiss would be allowed to Americanize his players by teaching them "advanced basketball culture." That promise would be broken from the moment Weiss landed in China. Desperate for his team to play like Americans, Wang—a peasant turned steel tycoon—nevertheless refused to allow his players any freedom and individuality. As we follow this team of colorful oddballs on a fascinating road trip through modern China, we see Weiss learn firsthand what so many other foreigners in China have discovered: that changing China happens only when and how China wants to be changed.
New York Times journalist Yardley honed in on a fantastically implausible, ultimately cautionary tale of how the Chinese and American ways often mix like oil and water. On one hand, the enthusiastic Chinese steel entrepreneur Boss Wang, owner of the Shanxi Brave Dragons, wanted to incorporate American-style basketball so badly that in 2008 he hired former NBA player and coach Bob Weiss to come to China and turn around his losing team. On the other hand, Boss Wang ultimately hired a Chinese coach to run the daily practices because of deep-seated fears about discipline, thus undermining most of what Weiss was trying to instill in his young Chinese players. Weiss inherited a team with the worst record in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA); they were convinced they were "defective." Working out of a bleak warehouse in Taiyuan, once ranked as the most polluted city in the world, Weiss had to use an interpreter to communicate with the players and with his assistant Chinese coach, Liu Tie, who strong-armed the team during practices and simply kept them going all the time—not Weiss' style. Indeed, the basketball players had been selected early on in elementary school, chosen from X-rays of their skeletal structure determining projections of tallness. It was a motley team made up of misfits, such as a shortish Taiwanese player, nicknamed Little Sun, mercilessly taunted by Coach Liu for playing "Taiwan independence defense"; and several foreign hirelings such as NBA bad boy Bonzi Wells, who played a few games then fizzled. The Dragons didn't end so shabbily, although the lessons in teaching American marketing and know-how only went so far.
An expert journalist compresses the culture class of nations into one palatable sports season.
“Rollicking . . . Lively and often hilarious . . . Yardley’s tale resonates far beyond sports . . . He manages to capture, in touchingly human detail, the essence of a nation in transition.”
-Brook Larmer, The Washington Post
“Illuminating . . . Brave Dragons is to Chinese basketball what Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit was to Depression-era horse racing: Both books certainly do justice to their respective sports but also use them as tools to gain access to wholly different cultures.”
-Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“An engaging history of basketball in China . . . In Yardley’s deft handling, the tale of the Brave Dragons and their American coach becomes something much bigger than an account of an oddball basketball team.”
-Jason Zengerle, The New York Times Book Review
“Yardley’s vivid, pointed, and often very funny examination of Chinese basketball has much to say about the country at large—and the way Americans often come flying down the lane at it, only to find themselves called for a charging foul.”
-Jay Jennings, San Francisco Chronicle
“Remarkable . . . Brave Dragons is about much more than basketball. It is about more than Weiss’s adventures. It is a serious look at the deep divisions between American and Chinese cultures.”
-Steve Kelley, The Seattle Times
“Brave Dragons is a winner—informative and conversational, occasionally funny and frequently suspenseful . . . Yardley rewards readers with his close eye and felicitous prose. This book amounts to cultural catnip.”
-Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Exceptionally ambitious . . . Yardley’s observations of a country in transition are instructive, sometimes even poetic.”
-Bill Littlefield, The Boston Globe
“Entertaining . . . Yardley presents basketball and young China’s growing fascination with it as an apt, pacy metaphor for a China cautiously engaging with the West.”
-David Shaftel, Mint
“A-. Brave Dragons is thorough micro- and macro-history, capable of sucking in both the basketball-obsessed and the non-athletically inclined.”
-Vadim Rizov, The A.V. Club
“Yardley strikes gold . . . The Brave Dragons put together a decent season, and Yardley a memorable book.”
“Unique . . . Engaging . . . A fantastically implausible, ultimately cautionary tale of how the Chinese and American ways often mix like oil and water.”
“Brave Dragons has all the ingredients of a farce: larger-than-life characters, sudden plot twists, and don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out moments. But Jim Yardley sees the bigger picture: In many ways, basketball is a metaphor for the emergence of China as an economic power and its relationship with the rest of the world. “
-Curt Schleier, The Seattle Times
“Masterly . . . Brave Dragons is a must-read for any hoops fans with a hankering to understand what is and isn’t happening in China.”
-Alan Paul, Slam
“An engaging story that will appeal to sports fans and general readers alike.”
“In delightful and insightful ways this wonderful book takes the reader into a world, China, through another world, basketball, that even helps illuminate a third world, America. I couldn’t put it down.”
-Ira Berkow, co-author with Walt Frazier of Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool
“Jim Yardley’s terrific book, telling the story of an obscure Chinese basketball team and its American coach, opens a vivid window on an unexpected item in the broader Sino-American encounter, and it does so not just perceptively but entertainingly as well. Nobody should mistake Brave Dragons for a sports book alone—yes, it’s full of action, big personalities, and excitement, but it’s also a universal story of human striving and cultural collision that's hard to put down.”
-Richard Bernstein, author of Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment
“By following a backwater Chinese basketball team and its new American coach for a season, Jim Yardley has created a character-driven narrative that tells the reader as much about contemporary China as it does about sport. Yardley takes us into the gym, on the road, and behind closed doors in this immersive, funny and suspenseful book, which I couldn't put down.”
-Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
“Jim Yardley's wonderful book not only provides a unique prism for understanding today’s China but is as entertaining a book as I've read in some time. It's also a basketball fan's delight.”
-Bryan Burrough, author of Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
Prologue: Summer 2008 3
1 The Foreign Expert 15
2 The Purge 28
3 Pieces 40
4 Basketball Is Life 64
5 Shooting the Messengers 76
6 Fight 92
7 Selling Air 108
8 Rumors 133
9 The Ambassador 141
10 Birthplace of the Game 156
11 Merry Christmas 173
12 Bodies 176
13 Yao's House 194
14 Corner Pockets 205
15 Red Soldier 218
16 LOL 230
17 Cast-Outs 237
18 The Promised Land 253
19 Black Whistles 270
20 Tenth Place 288
Posted May 16, 2012
A study in managerial dysfunction, Chinese style. Mr. Yardley's 'Brave Dragons' was interesting for highlighting the cultural clashes but also reaffirming that bad managers exist in every country. Boss Wang seems to incorporate the worst traits of bad managers - a micromanager who thinks he's a big-picture thinker, a top-down commander who wants everyone to follow his orders but gets frustrated at the lack of "initiative" by his employees (in this case, the players). A man who does not realize that he is the at the heart of the problem but blames everyone else. Kudos to Mr. Weiss to surviving the cultural cross-signals, passive aggressiveness, and Boss Wang's crazy meddling.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 28, 2012
Well written. Interesting look into A. The Chinese side of professional basketball, B. a fascinating look into the basketball side of fading (or marginal) American players and C. Chinese life and culture in the early 21st century.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 26, 2012
No text was provided for this review.