DongDan Park

In need of some exercise after weeks of inaction, greasy Chinese food and overeating, I went to DongDan Park yesterday to have a run and showcase my deadly jumper and tenacious defense to China.

It was Saturday evening and the courts were packed, even though admission was a steep $15 RMB (I’m learning how to be cheap in China; $1 RMB goes a long way here). There were too many people to run full-court games, so every basket was used for 4-on-4. Games were to five, with no twos.

So half-court games, no transition games, no pressing, very little running, no twos, a game catered to big guys and rebounding — not in my wheelhouse. I felt like Roger Federer playing on clay.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long to join a game. I was able to hook up with a squad that must have picked me because they appreciated my sporting outfit: plaid shorts and dirty, faded tennis shoes. What can I say, I ball in style.

Here are a few things I learned about playground basketball in Beijing:

— They don’t check the ball, so you better be prepared at all times. I got burned twice on defense thinking some one was going to check the ball.

— The skinniest, nerdiest guy on the court has the most accurate midrange jumper.

— Some of these guys can ball.

— My jumper in Beijing is still the same shitty jumper I had in Seattle.

— Games can get physical. I got elbowed (errant, I hope) in the back when I was among the trees in the lane. Thankfully, massages here are cheap.

— The boys from Nob Hill could hold their own here.

— Crappy basketball is crappy basketball no matter where you are.