Once considered a rogue offshoot of basketball, streetball enjoys a growing grassroots popularity in China

Sixteen-year-old Wu You was robotically flipping channels one evening when he saw it. It was the summer of 2001, and Wu was exhausted from a day of basketball practice, when his gaze landed on the Nike “Hip Hoop” commercial.

Wu recognized the faces of the famous basketball players, but not their moves; it was nothing like he had ever seen before. The way they spun the ball off the tips of their fingers, passed it behind their backs; how they dribbled it between their legs, all to the rhythmic squeak of sneakers and the drumbeat of the ball against the court—it was magic in the teenager’s eyes.

Since he was unable to record the clip, Wu spent that summer glued to the screen. Every day at 6 p.m., he meticulously studied the moves as they flashed by in the two-minute advert—memorizing three seconds each day.

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Hoops and Dreams is a story from our issue, “China Chic.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Eduardo Baptista

Eduardo Baptista is a former editorial intern at The World of Chinese. He is a fan of rap, basketball, and the TV rom-coms “Yanxi Palace” and “First Half of My Life.” Eduardo studied history at the University of Cambridge.

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