This week on Only A Game, Bill was joined by Jim Yardley, the author of Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing. The two of them discussed some of the main topics of the book, including the team’s eccentric owner.

Bill’s Thoughts on Brave Dragons:

Practices in China’s professional basketball league are “about punishment rather than improvement.” During games, the arenas are filled with cigarette smoke. Many of the best Chinese players have been conditioned to regard themselves as second-rate.

These are only some of the most obvious differences between pro basketball in China and the NBA game that Jim Yardley discovered when he followed former NBA coach Bob Weiss to Taiyuan in 2008. Weiss was hired to bring a little NBA magic to the woeful Shanxi Brave Dragons, a team so bad that most of their wins in 2007 had come from forfeits. The chronicle of Weiss’s frustration with the team and its despotic owner, “Boss” Wang, is entertaining and instructive. Sometimes it’s even poetic, as when Yardley describes China’s high speed train as “a steroidal central nervous system connecting steroidal cities designed to mobilize a populous encouraged to regard itself as a surplus commodity.”

Brave Dragons is a thoughtful, ambitious book, and it should earn a readership much larger than what the usual story set in a sport can legitimately claim.