Videos of “village basketball” going viral on Chinese social media show hundreds of spectators packed around makeshift courts to watch locals dribble, dunk and sink three-point shots. This rural game, which seems to have sprung up organically (with no central government planning), is attracting global attention. Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler recently traveled to China to take in a game.
Clearly, when people from different countries never meet and learn about each other’s culture, history and language, they are prone to demonize each other.
It makes you wonder: Could basketball become the 21st-century version of ping-pong diplomacy? That was sparked by an encounter at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championship in Japan, when American player Glenn Cowan missed his bus and had to ride with the Chinese team. He shook hands with three-time world champion Zhuang Zedong, and, shortly afterward, the U.S. team was invited to play exhibition matches in China, which in turn paved the way for President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to Beijing the following year.