Ball is Life: My Time at the Street Basketball Courts of Shanghai

Adam Dalton
March 8, 2015
Shanghai Street Basketball Court

March 8, 2015

                A couple of days ago I was relaxing in my room after having spent the majority of the day touring Xitang, an ancient Chinese water village which is currently “famous” due to the fact that many scenes from Mission Impossible 3 were filmed on location there;  when someone knocked on my door. It was Stephan, a fellow program member of mine who, earlier in the day, had agreed to go for a run with me after our group was finished touring Xitang. Stephan, dressed entirely in running attire, had no intention of running and instead came to offer a very intriguing proposal which I simply couldn’t turn down.

                Stephan proposed that instead of going for a run we should head over to the street basketball court near our apartment and see if the Shanghai locals would let us play a game with them. I, standing at an imposing 6’1ft/140lbs and having had the breakout game of my basketball career when I was a freshman in high school and somehow managed to score 10 (that’s right double figures!) points in a freshman league game decided that I pretty much had nothing to lose (except for my dignity?) and agreed to go play a few games. After recruiting my roommate Parker to join our team we collectively headed down to the court having no idea what to expect.

                When we got to the court there were roughly 30 locals of all ages playing quick half-court games on net-less hoops. We realized that everyone was playing on teams of 4; thus meaning that if we were to form a team we would need to recruit a local to join our squad. After a brief scouting period we decided to ask a younger mid-height man dressed in all black if he would be willing to join us, and much to our surprise he very enthusiastically agreed! Once we took care of our numbers problem we took to the court with reckless abandon.

                Our first game pitted us against a scrappy team comprised of 4 locals in their late 20’s. Their star player, a freakishly quick big man with an equally impressive man-bun initially kept us honest in the post, which led to a very grinding and slow game. However, eventually Stephan was able to knock down a couple of long-range j’s which opened the door for Parker (a defensive lineman on Bowdoin College’s football team) to bang in a few buckets. When the dust cleared we came out on top (5 to 3) and stayed on the court to face a new set of challengers.

                As we continued to play a crowd of locals formed around our court and were excitedly reacting to the twists and turns in each game. Every time either team would make a bucket, lose the ball, or foul, the crowd would loudly react accordingly with cheers, jeers, and everything in-between. During our final game, after having a relatively unproductive day on the court due to my lack of basic skills, I had my hallmark play. With the game tied 4-4 the other team’s point guard drove through the lane in an attempt to score the winning basket. However, I knew exactly what he was doing and showed off the one skill which (probably among other reasons) led one of my previous basketball coaches to call me Shawn Bradley; I viciously blocked him and sent the ball sailing across the court. After blocking him I gave an excited yell, at which time the crowd went absolutely bananas.

                Following the conclusion of the aforementioned game we decided that we had played enough, decided to say goodbye to the locals, and headed back to our apartment. When we were saying goodbye the locals said that we were welcome back any time and that they were thrilled to play with us. In my time in China I have been fairly impressed; the Chinese have blown me away with their kindness, willingness to deal with my relatively low level of Chinese language ability, and with their consistent attitude of “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I think that due to having had this experience in China, when I head back to America I will definitely be more cognescient of the struggles that non-english speaking people face and will try to be more accommodating and understanding.

Until next time…adventures await,



Adam Dalton

<div>My Name is Adam Dalton and I am currently a junior at Grinnell College majoring in Economics and Chinese Studies. I am originally from Mason City, IA and will be studying abroad in Shanghai with IES Shanghai next semester. Aside from academics, my interests including playing guitar, enjoying the great outdoors and running (I am a member of Grinnell&#39;s T&amp;F and XC teams).&nbsp;</div>

2015 Spring
Home University:
Grinnell College
Chinese Language
Explore Blogs