The adidas camp the other day was interesting. I interviewed a bunch of people, including a 7-foot 14-year-old Chinese (supposedly – they backdate age worse than Dominican Little League teams) who shrugged and nodded to everything. I’m not sure my translator was all that on the ball, either.
NBA Stars Dwight Howard and TJ Ford were there and I chatted with them each for a good long time. Both are really good, outgoing guys, perfect for this type of thing. TJ is from Houston and had never been out of the country before. Hw as having a great time and saying things like, “you know, the, uh, Asians, they a little better than I would have thought. They got some athleticism.”
Dwight Howard is going to blow up into one of the NBA’s biggest stars in the next couple of years. First of all, he is phenomenally talented. I’m too lazy to look it up, but I do believe he was second in the league in rebounding this year, at age 20, two years out of high school. He is going to be an absolute beast on the court. But what is going to make him a star is that combined with the fact that he is incredibly outgoing, friendly, well-spoken, at ease with himself, clean-cut and good looking. He also has a super hero body, with a thin waist V’ing up to huge shoulders. He has it all.
While I was talking to him and throughout the day as I observed, hordes of Chinese teenagers approached him, gingerly, smiling, wanting a picture. He smiled broadly, hugged, shook hands, gave high fives, took people’s phones out of their hands and spoke to friends, “Hi, this is Dwight.” He smiled and waved a everyone, went out of his way to say “Ni hao” to as many people as he could, including maintenance and construction workers. He seemed to be fully and truly enjoying himself, as he should, but in a way that is not the norm. He’s a really refreshing cat.
As for the play, well, did I mention how cool Dwight Howard was? It was pretty raggedy. The 7-foot kid I mentioned had biceps as thick as my wrist giving him an impossibly awkward pterodactyl look. There were a few others with similar builds. There is a lot of height, because kids are sent to the basketball academies largely on the basis of their height and how tall they are projected to end up. I did see some nice move and busts of athleticism and savvy ball playing. The best point guard I noticed was a little Japanese kid (there are about 15 kids from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan—and one big redhead from Australia, who looks like Matt Bonner and whom I really need to talk to). Two Chinese kids did actually beat TJ and Dwight in a game of 2-2. They obviously weren’t going all our or anything, but it was kind of cool.
Tomorrow is the All Star Game and that will be interesting. It can be hard to pick players out at these camps, with 60 kids playing 4 or 5 simultaneous games. Having the cream of the crop pre-selected for your viewing pleasure can be a huge help.