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Brave Dragons

A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing

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The wonderfully original story of a struggling Chinese basketball team and its quixotic, often comical attempt to right its fortunes by copying the American stars of the NBA—a season of cultural misunderstanding that transcends sports and reveals China’s ambivalent relationship with the West.
When the Shanxi Brave Dragons, one of China’s worst professional basketball teams, hired former NBA coach Bob Weiss, 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 the freedom and individual expression necessary to truly change their games.
Former New York Times Beijing bureau chief Jim Yardley tells the story of the resulting culture clash with sensitivity and a keen comic sensibility. Readers meet the Brave Dragons, a cast of colorful, sometimes heartbreaking oddballs from around the world: the ambitious Chinese assistant coach, Liu Tie, who believes that Chinese players are genetically inferior and can improve only through the repetitious drilling once advocated by ancient kung fu masters; the moody and selfish American import, Bonzi Wells, a former NBA star so unnerved by China that initially he locks himself in his apartment; the Taiwanese point guard, Little Sun, who is demonized by his mainland Chinese coaches; and the other Chinese players, whose lives sometimes seem little different from those of factory workers.
As readers follow the team on a fascinating road trip through modern China—from glamorous Shanghai and bureaucratic Beijing to the booming port city Tianjin and the polluted coal capital of Taiyuan—we see Weiss learn firsthand what so many other foreigners in China have discovered: China changes only when and how it wants to change.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 13, 2012 – "We believe that by working harder, bit by bit, it's like water dripping into a cup. Over time, you finally achieve a full cup." Such is the philosophy of basketball according to Liu Tie, the unsuccessful coach of the Shanxi Brave Dragons, as reported by Pulitzer Prize-winner Yardley in this rags-to-riches tale of modern Chinese basketball. Ten years ago, when Boss Wang #236 on Forbes list of China's richest acquired the bedraggled Brave Dragons, he set his sights on turning them into a fire-breathing dream team. A farmer's son, Wang escaped the poverty of the Cultural Revolution when he made the cut for the elite basketball team, and later as a "Red Hat Capitalist" made his millions in steel. Yardley, the former Beijing bureau chief for the New York Times, chronicles Wang's Sisyphean challenge beginning in 2008 when Wang recruited Bob Weiss of the Seattle Sonics to become the first NBA coach to lead a team in China. Weiss moved to Taiyuan, the infamously polluted Shanxi capital, where he soon became a local celebrity. The Dragons provide Yardley with a colorful cast of characters, including the notorious Bonzi Wells of Portland's "Jail Blazers," who came to China to play with the team. Despite rampant corruption among game officials and myriad cultural obstacles, Weiss remarkably fills Tie's proverbial cup in this engaging story that will appeal to sports fans and general readers alike.

Customer Reviews

Zhe ge hao

Captivating. Well written. Accurate. Im currently involved in the league depicted, also familiar with the time frame & characters of the story. Jim hit a bullseye with this one. The league will get better, IS getting better... as the Chinese who speak enough English would put it, "maybeee we just have to wait some time or somethin like that." The NBA sure didnt happen overnight or 20 years.. It took a combo overcoming its own obstacles, connecting with the fans, and generations of great players. China hoops is still very young & inexperienced. With the work ethic of these players combined with the right guidance, China will get its turn.

Brave Dragons

Loved this book. A great read from a new author who has a gift for finding humor and emotion in his stories. Great characters that accentuate the similarities and differences in Chinese and American culture and values. Also, as a basketball fan, I really enjoyed learning more about the game away from the NBA and big time college hoops.

Brave Dragons
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Basketball
  • Published: Feb 14, 2012
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 336 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings