Miles from Home: Plumlee Sees NBA Influence in China
Suns center Miles Plumlee recently spent a chunk of his summer in Shanghai, China, on behalf of NBA nation. The third-year big man recently shared his experiences, which help capture the global impact of basketball and its importance in nations where the game is still growing.
It was probably the middle of the summer when my agency let me know that this opportunity was there. They wanted Mason and I together, which is kind of rare. That was really cool. It’s a good reason Mason isn’t here for the reason he’s not here. I wish he’d been able to make it because it’s been really cool.
I’d been here before. I just know how good it is, how much it means to [the people], how much it means to us as players. It’s fun to see, on the other side of the world, how these people obsess with basketball. They know all about you. It’s a really cool experience. It’s like a little vacation too.
It was really eye-opening the first time I came, which was I think three years ago. That trip we were playing games. We were probably in each city for two days or something like that, whereas now it’s been fun. I’ve been in Shanghai the whole time. I get to know the city a lot more. I get to know the people and just kind of take it all in.
Every time you walk by someone, everybody wants to know if you play in the NBA. Everyone wants to know. If you do, they want to talk your head off. They’re so excited. They talk about their favorite players. It’s not a question of “who’s an NBA fan.” It’s almost like every person is an NBA fan. You see people wearing jerseys. It’s cool.
[My visit has been] a bunch of different things, but it’s all on behalf of the NBA and the different things their doing to promote the brand and interact with people here. We had some really cool appearances. Earlier in the week we went and did some stuff with Shanghai Sports World. The first day was kids that were really young and maybe up to 14 years old. They’re all learning how to play basketball and I got to play with them. The next day it was kids that play more seriously and they’re 14 or 15. They’re all in the tunnel for their national team when they get older. I was teaching post play with the bigger guys.
Now we’re doing an NBA Nation event, which is this big thing where it’s like a playground/park that they set up for a couple days. It’s all basketball stuff. Different baskets for fun, different little tents and all that. There’s a big court and they do all these theatrical, fun things. I was actually out there with the biggest Korean pop star and we did stuff for the crowd.
The other event that we did was a Gatorade appearance. It was really cool. In the mall, you walk in and you think they just know you because they say an NBA player’s coming. Then you look around and these kids were waiting for months because they knew you were coming. They just love the opportunities to get a glimpse of any NBA action.
I‘ve seen a Chris Paul jersey. I’ve seen two Kyrie Irving jerseys. Obviously Yao. I think they just love basketball and the exciting players to watch. Their favorite players here are Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Marbury, all these guys. It’s funny because I think a lot of the guys [they like] are the characters of the NBA, the most outgoing players.
I think my biggest thing is -and this is just watching kids play pickup that aren’t super serious - they just want to mimic exactly what the best players do. It doesn’t matter what kind of shot they have. They’re doing step-backs like Kobe, you know what I mean? You can tell they do these moves because they see guys do them.
I didn’t even realize how accessible they’re making the NBA to this part of the world. It’s pretty much just the same thing -TV rights, all the business that we have back in the states - except that we just don’t play games here. It’s crazy because you don’t realize that these people are watching your games, knowing who you are.
In some of these appearances when I’m taking kids out of the crowd, it’s like me when I was 12 years old and I’m teaching them the same drills that I used to do. My dad played basketball so he taught me these things. Some of these kids, they don’t have that instruction, so I think that’s the whole point of us reaching out, is to spread the game and the knowledge of the game so they can play it and love it as much as they want to.
For me, basketball’s always been something that enables different opportunities for you in life and takes you different places. For me, I just wanted to see how many different places it could take me, so why wouldn’t I want to come to China and see the game I loved growing up playing and see where it takes me? It’s fun to have that as part of your journey. When I look back at it and I’m done playing, I can say I’ve been all around the world because of basketball and I got to meet all these people. To me, that’s what’s special about it.
 Mason is traveling with the U.S. Senior Men’s National Team and is vying for one of the 12 roster spots for the 2014 FIBA World Cup