Learning, giving back through basketball
Updated: 2014-12-24 05:02
By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)
Klay Thompson, a shooting guard with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Golden State Warriors, interacts with Chinese students during an October 2013 trip to Beijing. Thompson, who is in his fourth year in the NBA, said: China is "a new frontier" for the development of basketball. Provided to China Daily
Getting drafted into the American National Basketball Association (NBA) can be a life-changing event. It is the culmination of years of hard work, perseverance and dedication, but for some, it is also the chance to start giving back to the community.
"Without the fans and their love, we don't have a job, so you have to show appreciation for them," Klay Thompson, a member of the NBA's Golden State Warriors, told China Daily in an interview.
"When you interact with the community, the fans feel like they're a part of something bigger than just watching a basketball game — they feel like they're a part of our team,'' he said.
In his time with the Warriors, albeit brief, Thompson has already become one of the league's highest-scoring players (averaging 21.6 points per game entering Monday).
And as one of the offensive leaders of his team, Thompson helps guide the ship for the team with the best record in the NBA (22-3 entering play on Monday).
"We did not expect to be here, but we're playing really well right know," Thompson said. "These last few years we're trying to establish ourselves as one of the elite teams in the NBA. I think our popularity in China is growing too because we've gotten so much better."
In addition to securing a spot on the US Men's National Basketball Team in July, the 24-year-old shooting guard has already been to China with the league twice.
In June 2013, Thompson took part in the NBA Nation program in China. The three-month program made stops in 12 Chinese cities, including Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Tianjin.
Thompson, who visited Xi'an and Chengdu, was one of two Warriors players to make the trip. He also took part in a number of events, including the NBA Fit Clinic, a program that works to promote active lifestyles through a series of player-led drills and exercises.
In October 2013, Thompson and his teammates traveled to China to play exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers in Beijing (Oct 15) and Shanghai (Oct 18). In addition to the on-court action, players also took part in NBA Cares outreach events, including a trip to visit students at a reading and learning Center in Beijing.
The 2013 visit to China was the Warriors' second visit to China as part of the NBA Global Games. The Warriors first played in China during the 2008-2009 season.
Since then, the Warriors have been one of the teams leading the NBA when it comes to outreach with fans in China and the Chinese-American community.
In October 2013, the GSW launched a Chinese-language version of their webpage and an official Weibo account for the team to better interact with Chinese fans, both domestically and abroad.
The team is also one of the pioneers for the NBA's Chinese New Year (CNY) celebration, a weeklong celebration that began in 2012.
During this year's installment of the NBA's CNY celebration, which ran from Jan 28 to Feb 4, the NBA streamed 23 live NBA broadcasts to millions of fans in China.
Klay Thompson, a shooting guard with the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Golden State Warriors, interacts with Chinese students during an October 2013 trip to Beijing. Thompson, who is in his fourth year in the NBA, said: China is "a new frontier" for the development of basketball. Provided to China Daily
Ten teams around the league took part in the NBA's 2014 Chinese New Year celebration, paying tribute to Chinese culture through in-arena musical performances, showcases of Asian cuisine and Chinese ads.
NBA China, headquartered in Beijing, is an arm of the NBA formed in January 2008 to spearhead the league's business in China. The NBA in China has relationships with a number of television and digital media partners, including a partnership of more than 25 years with China Central Television (CCTV).
Thompson said basketball fans in China have a real "thirst for knowledge" when it comes to learning about the game of basketball.
"In my experience from going over to China, in general, the Chinese fans love the game," he said. "To know you have an influence on so many people across the world, it's cool just to be able to see that with the preseason games played in Beijing and Shanghai."
Thompson said California's Bay Area is home to a large Chinese-American population, so it's important to include them in the team's overall community outreach efforts.
"It's cool that we get to celebrate Chinese New Year, especially last year because it was the Year of the Horse and my Chinese sign is the Horse," he said. "That was unique to me, but it speaks for itself because we have so many fans. We've got some pretty humble guys on our team and we love interacting with the community."
Basketball players are not often honored for their off-court feats, but occasionally the work that players do in the community receives its due recognition.
On Dec 18, Thompson received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for the month of November. Thompson received the award as recognition for his charity work in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Thompson recently donated $20,000 to the city of Oakland, California, to facilitate the continuation of its annual Thanksgiving dinner program in 2014 and 2015. The donation will help 2,000 low-income families, seniors and homeless individuals find meals around the holiday season.
Thompson said events like the NBA's Global Games initiative help grow the league's international fan base, and the chance to host a league-wide Chinese New Year celebration gives an added push to those endeavors.
"It's really important when you go over to China and different parts of the world that you act right, not only because of your legacy but also for the NBA's legacy," he said. "For me, for the Warriors and for the NBA, China is a new frontier as far as developing the game."