Basketball has become ‘part of the Chinese culture’


Houston Rockets star James Harden shares his shooting secrets during the Special Olympics NBA Cares Clinic.

Not far from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the futuristic landmark on the banks of Huangpu River, just blocks from the upscale shopping malls, trendy restaurants and clogged roads filled with expensive imported automobiles, one can hear the shouts of competition, the bounce of a ball off concrete and feel the passion of raw play around a solitary rim and net.

Hundreds of miles to the north in the capital city of Beijing, on one side of Chang’an Dajie, the majestic, 100-yard wide boulevard that has hosted parades by the Red Army — complete with tanks and missiles warheads providing fearsome images beamed round the world — is Dong Dan Park, now an oasis of happy squeals and the sound leather balls being dribbled on concrete.

Barely a half-mile away, through the Tiananmen Gate, is the entrance to the Forbidden City, for roughly 500 years the round of the imperial palace, where only the inner circles of the Ming and Ching dynasties were permitted.  But in recent years, just past where tourists pay their fee and show their tickets, there has been a pair of backboards where guards could play two-on-two during their breaks.

“Basketball is a part of the Chinese culture,” said Meng Wang, an analyst and commentator for Tencent, which has grown into China’s largest and most most used Internet service portal. “It is a game that has long been enjoyed by the population, even before all of this.”

All of this is the 10th edition of the China Games, where the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans sweep into Shanghai and Beijing for a pair of preseason games Sunday and Wednesday that bring all of the glitz, glamor and excitement — not to mention widely known NBA stars such as James Harden and Anthony Davis — to the most populous nation on the planet.

Just 14 years after native son Yao Ming was chosen with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft by the Rockets, as a 7-foot-6 bridge between diverse cultures, to an American eye, there is a sense of familiarity inside the Oriental Sports Arena, where 16,000 fans packed the stands on Friday to watch informal practices, 3-point and free throw shooting competitions and even a dance contest between rookie players.  From the rock music blaring the from the speakers, dancers gyrating, tumblers flipping and cartoonish mascots performing their comic routines, it might as well be any NBA arena from Miami to Portland.

The snap judgment is to say that in a land where spiked heels and miniskirts now walk along the Great Wall at Badaling, where Dunkin’ Donuts and Old Navy elbow their way into a landscape where traditional vendors sell locust-on-a-stick and deep-fried scorpion from their carts, that China has quickly caught on.


China’s history with game runs deep

But the truth is China’s roots in the “American game” run deep. It was in 1896, when Dr. James Naismith nailed up his first peach basket at his gymnasium in Springfield, Mass., that a government official named Piengiane introduced the game to China.  It caught on immediately and has always been a deeply ingrained part of the culture, long before a time of Yao and something called “Linsanity.”

Basketball participation never flagged during the Chinese civil war in the 1930s and was eventually given a prominent place in the People’s Republic of China when Chou En Lai, the first prime minister, endorsed the game for its contribution to fitness and promotion of teamwork.  The game even survived the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, when intellectuals and artists were sent to labor camps and jail, even executed.  Basketball was not only tolerated but also encouraged during the reign of Chairman Mao Zedong.

“As much as the Chinese have always liked the game, it was maybe hard to think that basketball would ever become so big like this,” Wang said.

The fans gather outside the team hotels seeking autographs, photos or just a glimpse of the players.

“Harden is so handsome,” was a phrase repeated over and over outside the Ritz-Carlton in the Pudong section of Shanghai.  “He is our favorite.”

But they are not just star-worshippers.  They know everyone from second-year Rocket Sam Dekker, who was injured and did not play as a rookie, to veteran center Nene.

“Hey, K.J. McDaniel!  Over here!” shouts another fan.

It is a relationship between the NBA and China — the second-largest market in the world — that has taken off well, like a rocket.

The first Asian player ever drafted in the NBA was China’s Sung Tao by the Atlanta Hawks in the third round in 1987.  The first to play in an NBA game was 7-footer Wang Zhizhi, who played five games with the Dallas Mavericks in 1999.  Next was Mengke Bateer, who joined the Denver Nuggets in 2002.


But it was Yao who threw the doors wide open as the top overall pick, became an eight-time All-Star, a worldwide celebrity as a pitchman/endorser for dozens of products, and was inducted with Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Class of 2016, in September.  He was with the Rockets for nine seasons, was healthy and played for seven full seasons and retired prematurely in 2011 following a series of debilitating foot injuries.

“I never had a dream that all of this could happen,” Yao said last week in a trip back to Texas.  “I was not scared when I arrived in Houston for the first time.  Maybe say I was nervous.  To think that we are at this point is beyond expectation.”

However, it was no beyond the expectation of former NBA commissioner David Stern, who pushed hard for the league to push into Asia in general and China specifically.  Stern likes to tell of his early visits to China in the 1990s when he would be asked feverish questions about the Bulls, the “Team of the Red Oxen.”

Chinese fans, like those all over the globe, were attracted to Michael Jordan like moths to a flame.  While Yao, of course, was popular as one of their own and the Shaq’s great size and strength was awed and respected, most of their admiration is for guards and wing players.  Harden, Stephen Curry and LeBron James are favorites.

“Much of it has to do with them not being the biggest man on the court,” Big Xu, a well-known analyst and TV commentator, has said.  “Not having the size, but still being able to carry the day to find a way to win is an admired trait.  Those attributes of cleverness and great will are highly regarded in China.”

“Kobe Bryant is almost a god,” said Meng, whose posts on Tencent can reach upwards of 1 million views.

Roughly 400 regular season NBA games will be shown free in the 2016-17 season and all the rest will be streamed for a fee by Tencent.

Harden has made numerous trips to China on behalf his partnership with Adidas.

“These fans get it, they really do,” he said.  “They follow the game, they really study the game.  They know the guys on the end of the bench for every team, not just the big names.  It’s so much fun to come here and see the enthusiasm.”


Yao Ming gives instructions during the Special Olympics NBA Cares Clinic as part of the 2016 Global Games.

The arrival of Yao in 2002 created enthusiasm inside the basketball world, supposedly throwing open the door to so many possibilities in terms of more players.  Now every NBA club is scouting China, hopeful of finding the next star.  Forward Yi Jianlian was drafted No. 6 overall by Milwaukee in 2007 and spent five seasons in the NBA playing for the New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks before returning to the Chinese Basketball Association in 2012.  Now he has signed on with the L.A. Lakers for this season.  The Rockets made Zhou Qi a second round draft pick in June and will monitor the progress of the young, slight-of-build big man for the future.  When Yao and Yi met for the first time in an NBA game during the 2007-08 season, the game that was shown live early in the morning, drew a TV audience of more than 200 million. That is comparable to the Super Bowl.

Yao going to NBA sparked enthusiasm

While China’s fondness for basketball is more than a century old, it was Yao that turned that interest into a voracious appetite.  He is back living and working as a businessman in his hometown of Shanghai and is the owner of the Shanghai Sharks of the CBA.

“Every player in the NBA owes a debt of gratitude to Yao Ming,” said Rockets team president Tad Brown.  “He’s opened up incredible doors on the market front.  He’s opened up incredible opportunities for the league to continue to expand and grow. It’s something that’s happened. I think the most important thing, what is universal, you have to be able to play.

“The reason Yao was drafted No. 1 is that he had the ability to the best center in the world.  That’s why (Rockets owner) Leslie (Alexander) drafted him No. 1. All the other stuff was gonna be nice and worked out.  But he had to be able to play basketball.  That’s the way it is with Zhou Qi right now.  We are very hopeful that this young man can be a very good basketball player.  He just happens to be from China.

“But you need to continue to develop the game and continue to grow the game and the way the game has exploded in China is in direct relation to Yao Ming’s ability and Yao Ming’s ability to handle all the pressures that he had to face when he first came into the league and when he grew in his career.  I can tell you that everybody in the league — teams, players, executives — owe a great deal of gratitude for everything he has done for the game of basketball.”

The Rockets have hired a consulting firm out of New York to further their presence in social media in China.

“No team is more aggressive,” said representative Jessica Beineke.  “First because of Yao Ming and then because of the continue interest of the club, it’s not an exaggeration to call the Rockets China’s team.  There is the link.”

The Rockets have scheduled the ceremony to retire Yao Ming’s No. 11 jersey and hang it from the rafters of Houston’s Toyota Center for Feb. 2 to coincide with the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration.


“The timing of the event is designed to make sure we have the maximum impact globally so that people can recognize Yao in the manner that he can be recognized and that someday one of those kids can be watching live in China,” Brown said.  “We’re hoping to get 300 million viewers and maybe some of them can realize that if I work someday I too can make it to the Hall of Fame and some day get my jersey retired by an NBA team.  That’s for any kid all over the world.  But specifically the people that he is giving hope and an inspiration to in his home country.”

This is the Rockets’ third time taking part in the China Games.  Teams are only permitted to take part in international trips every three years and the Rockets don’t ever have to be asked twice or cajoled.

“When I spoke with (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver back in the spring and we thought that the odds were very good that Yao would be selected for the Hall of Fame, we both thought it was only natural that we come here this season as part of that celebration,” said Brown. “And three years from now, when Adam is looking around again, you can be sure that we’ll have our hand up.”


Nellakir update: Time to consider annual maintenance of your sports flooring

It’s getting around to that time to consider getting cyclical maintenance of Sprung Timber Sports Flooring located in schools and used by school populations. With the midyear break scheduled for July in the education sector it’s a good time to start planning for regular annual maintenance if this has not already been attended to.

Nellakir specialise in the removal and refitting of existing floors. It provides expert service in resurfacing existing floors in stadiums, halls, gymnasiums and churches. Nellakir can advise you, then implement a sensible, effective annual maintenance program. It provides a reliable and accurate line-marking service for all sports flooring surfaces – basketball, netball, badminton, volleyball and more. It also provides annual maintenance of stadium seating and replacement seating if required. Nellakir can provide effective floor covers and covering if required.

In the last few months, Nellakir have been extremely busy in providing such services to a wide range of clients. Jobs include two Sprung timber floored courts at the Hamilton Recreation Area in South Western Victoria.

As well we have just completed the replacement and refurbishment of the Dance Floor (sprung timber) at the Flem-Ken Bowling Club in Flemington, a well known and popular venue of long standing.

Nellakir have completed the construction of a new 1/2 court surface at the St Kevin’s Sports Facility in Tooronga.

Also it has now completed works at the Electra Community Centre in Ashwood. A complex project this involved the extension of a multipurpose hall with a resurfacing of the old sprung timber floor combined with the newly built extension providing an open and expanded area once the project was completed.

Works at Melbourne’s Girls Grammar on its High Performance Floor, used for Aerobics and its Team Zone Area court areas have also been recently completed.

The new Casey Indoor Stadium flooring has been completed. There has been a problem with vandalism but the clean-up on that has also been completed. After the construction hand-over has occured, Nellakir will return to repair the damage caused by Vandals not able to be rectified during the clean-up.

The St Finbar’s School job in Brighton, replacing the flood damaged court is now completed.

bendigo stadiumbendigo stadium copy

Nellakir are now busily preparing for the new works at the Bendigo Stadium ad the Watpac PPP (Private Public Partnership) school projects in Geelong North, Torquay and Armstrong Creek.

When you consider on-going maintenance and servicing of genuine Sprung Timber Sports Flooring always ensure you contact Nellakir, the experts and master craftsmen in this field. Why not draw on the experience and understanding of the Nellakir team who not only build Victoria and Tasmania’s most prestigious competition sports floored courts and playing surfaces, but also have the vision to ensure a maintenance program that provides simply the best competitive sprung timber surface currently available.

Provide a champion surface for our future champions. Always call Nellakir – for a true competitive edge.

Netball – The Best Game

Netball is Australia’s most popular womens sport catering for competitions ranging from Junior through to Senior with an Australia-wide premium competition that currently is featured on Free to Air Television – Netball Australia’s 8 team National Competition.

Nellakir have been involved with the construction of most premium competition courts in the Greater Melbourne area and the nearby Regional Cities. The Nellakir team constructed the current Victorian Netball Centre main courts. These are constructed in  premium sprung timber sports flooring and can be viewed on our website here

As well the company is actively involved in cyclical maintenance of a large number of courts both in Greater Melbourne and regional Victoria currently used for premium competitive Netball.

At Nellakir we believe in fostering the sport of Netball as a healthy, regular team sport. The Victorian State Government PPP program is now ensuring that kids have a genuine opportunity to play and participate in most parts of Melbourne and rural Victoria. The PPP (Public Private Partnership) program is ensuring that Netball Courts are incorporated in the majority of new schools built and also with school upgrades.

Netball is a skilful game. It requires quick thinking and action with good hand to eye coordination. it is fast becoming a recognised international sport and in all likelihood may well feature at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

It is more than interesting seeing the sport regain a foothold in the USA. This is where it started many years ago, as a genteel version of Basketball for ‘proper young ladies’. However since those days the game has evolved dramatically and it is now a fast paced, incredibly skilful game with major differences to Basketball. This includes court position, no dribbling the ball, no contact and the three second rule that requires ball disposal within a three second period. It’s a wonderful team sport that encourages the development of physical, mental and social skill sets.

For anyone looking to encourage their children to play sport and exercise, Netball is an excellent choice. For those of you interested we have placed a video this week on Facebook featuring the growth of the game in New York. You can watch it here

And remember in junior grades boys can play too! So step to it. Netball is the buzz. Enrol your children for real fun and fitness now. And you never know – if they’re playing indoors on a sprung timber sports floor – it’s probably a Nellakir floor!

Basketball Tips – Handling, Passing, Shooting and Defence

Nellakir are the premium supplier of Sprung Timber Sports Flooring in Victoria and Tasmania.

Nellakir are strong supporters of both junior and Senior Basketball and to assist young players from time to time we will provide some handy tips from real professionals.

This week we provide advice on Ball Handling, Passing, Shooting and Defence.

We hope this helps some of you budding young champions and take your game to the next level.

The following tips address the basics of the game. Master these and we may just post a blog on ‘tricks’ so you can impress your friends.


Basketball Shooting Tips

gallery_a gShooting is a critical part of the game and it requires excellent mechanics, unfortunately there are a lot of people giving bad advice online. Without proper mechanics you will shoot a low percentage and have a lot of your shots blocked.

Below are important tips regarding shooting mechanics:

  1. Hold the ball on your finger tips. In order to have proper control of the ball only your finger tips should be touching.
  2. Start small, end tall. At the start of your shot you should be small, your legs bent as if you were sitting (this is where your power comes from). Then as you continue through your shooting motion you are springing up, ending with your body straight and your hands high in the air, ending tall. (Starting your shot standing up straight is a common mistake that really hurts your shooting percentage. You need your legs to get the ball up, especially in a game when you are tired, don’t make your arms do all the work.)
  3. Middle to middle. Your elbow should be in, pointing to the middle of the rim. The same goes for your middle finger on the follow through, your shot should finish as if you were dipping your hand into the rim.
  4. Snap the elbow. As you reach the peek of your shot your arm should straighten out in such a motion that your elbow snaps back a little (this may feel weird the first time). The MOST COMMON MISTAKE amateurs make is not fully extending their arm.
  5. Elbow above your eyes. At point of release your elbow should be above your eyes. Many players learn to push their arm out towards the basket in order to get enough distance on the ball, this results in many blocked shots and a low percentage flat arc shot. Fix this by practicing close shots with one hand and starting low to make sure you get power from your legs.
  6. Follow through. You should always follow through, your arm finishing straight, your wrist loose, your fingers hanging down. Your fingers should be naturally hanging, not tight together or pointing.
  7. Hold your follow through. By holding your follow through you are engraining it into your muscle memory, making your mechanics come naturally without conscious thought.

Basketball Passing Tips

Passing is an important skill and there are a variety of different types. The key to passing is finding the open player and choosing the appropriate type of pass.

The two most common passes in basketball are the chest and the bounce pass.

  1. Chest Pass. Ball travels from your chest area directly to your teammate with little arc and no bounce. This is the most direct way to transfer the ball and is the easiest to catch.
  2. Bounce Pass. Ball travels from your chest or waist area and takes one bounce up into your teammates hands.  This is the most difficult pass to defend because the ball is bouncing near the defenders feet and they don’t have time to get their hands on it. This is why the bounce pass is very effective and popular.

Below are some passing tips:

  1. Pass with two hands. By putting both hands on the ball you have more control and can easily put backspin on the ball.
  2. Step into your pass. Put your weight into your pass to ensure proper velocity and control.
  3. Always follow through. Just like a good shooter, a good passer will follow through.
  4. End with your thumbs pointing down. Your thumbs should point down at the end of your follow through. This ensures there is proper back spin on the ball which makes it easier to catch.
  5. Make the pass easy to catch. Don’t put a lot of speed on the pass if you don’t need it, and always read the body language of your teammate, are they ready for a pass? Where are their hands?
  6. Pass away from the defender. Aggressive defenders will play passing lanes and knock away passes. Passing to the side of your teammate that is away from the defender will reduce tipped passes.
  7. Make the easy pass. Most turnovers that amateurs commit happen because they try to make a difficult or impossible pass. Just make the easy passes to wide open players, this will ensure your teammate can easily get it and your team retains possession.
  8. Pass to the hands of your teammate. If your teammate is squaring up for a shot, they will have their hands by their shooting pocket, make sure thats where you aim. If they are battling in the post with their hands up in the air, make a lob pass to their finger tips. If they are in the post reaching out low, skip a bounce pass in so it hits their hands.
  9. Only lead your receiver if required. Many passing turnovers are caused by over leading the receiver, often in times when there is no need to lead the receiver at all. If your teammate is wide open on a fast break don’t try throw the ball far in front of them, instead make a pass they will be able to get even if they slow down.
  10. Use trick passes with caution. Trick passes can look impressive when they work, but often result in turnovers. Using a trick pass just you had to try and fool the defence because you could not get them out of position.
  11. Do not jump. Once you jump, you are not allowed to land with the ball, if the passing lane disappears as you jump, you have no choice but to throw a bad pass.
  12. Pick a target. Don’t throw in the general direction of your teammates voice.

BONUS TIP: Play a practice game without dribbles. Find a few friends and play a game with no dribbling allowed (almost like ultimate frisbee), it will force you to focus on passing.

Below for receiving a passes:

1.    Catch the ball with two hands and grab it with muscle. By using both hands and your strength you are increasing your control of the ball incase it had more velocity than expected or a strange spin. It also lets you immediately get into your shooting motion or triple threat position.
2.    Come to the ball. If you let the ball come to you, you are giving the defender a chance to make a play. Once the ball is in the air, its your job as the receiver to get to it and make sure no one else can.

Basketball Ball Handling Tips

The importance of ball handling skills cannot be overstated. Whether you are a guard, forward, or centre, playing pickup, college, or professionally, ball handling is (and always will be) the most important skill in the game.  With good ball handling the rest of the game comes to you, passing and shooting become natural because the ball is always where you want it. When you don’t have to think about physically holding or dribbling the ball, you will have no problems reading the defence and finding your open teammates.

Playing in pickup games does NOT improve ball handling. Improving your ball handling only comes from ball handling drills. If you were going to learn guitar, you wouldn’t join a band, instead you would practice chords and rhythm at home, so neither should you play basketball to learn the game. One great thing about ball handling is that you can practice at home! Just a few minutes a day will result in huge improvements on the court.

Below are the most effective drills:

  1. Tipping (do in your home!). Tip the ball back and forth from one hand to the next, starting with your hands straight up over your head. Then gradually move the ball down, while continuing to tip it back and forth. Go down to your chest, then your waist, knees, and ankles, and then back up again. Keep your elbows straight and only let the the ball touch fingertips, not the palms.
  2. Circles (do in your home!). Put your feet together and make circles around both legs. Then circle around the back. And then circle around the head. Then combine them and move the ball in circles around your head, then down your body, down around your knees, and then around your ankles (“candy cane”). Then come back up again. Try to only touch with the fingertips, not the palms.
  3. Around Each Leg and Figure Eights (do in your home!). Put one leg forward and move the ball in a circular motion around the leg. Then do the other leg. Finally, spread your legs out wide with the ball in front of you. Move the ball around through your legs in a figure-of-eight motion. Keep your eyes forward and don’t let the ball hit the floor. After 30 seconds, reverse the direction.
  4. Circle Dribbles (HIGHLY EFFECTIVE). Using only your right hand, dribble circles around your right foot with about 5 inch dribbles. Do ten clockwise then switch directions, then switch to your left hand and left leg.
  5. Figure 8 Dribbles (HIGHLY EFFECTIVE). Dribble the ball in and out between your legs in a figure eight motion, dribble should be about 5 inches high. When going between your legs your one hand will bounce the ball to the other.
  6. Power Dribble. Fifty power dribbles with the right hand, being sure to protect the ball with the off hand.  After completing fifty power dribbles the ball handler dribbles low for fifty more dribbles.  Then switch to the left hand and do fifty power dribbles and fifty low dribbles.
  7. Drops. Put the ball between your feet and grab it with both hands. Start with the left hand behind your left leg and your right hand in front of your right leg. Drop the ball and let it bounce once. Quickly, move your left hand in front of your left leg and your right hand behind your right leg, and catch the ball as it bounces up. Drop it again and switch your hands back to the original position (left behind, right in front) and catch it. Repeat this motion continuously. Finally, try catching the ball before it actually hits the floor.

Keep the following in mind when you practice:

  1. Head up, don’t look at the ball. You can’t afford to be looking down in a game, so don’t do it when you practice.
  2. Knees bent, back straight. The lower you are the safer the ball, practice as low as you can.
  3. Use your free hand to fend off defenders. Don’t forget that you are allowed to smack defenders away when they try to reach in, practice this when doing dribbling drills.
  4. Keep the ball on your finger tips. Good ball handlers control the ball with their fingertips, no palms.
  5. Increase your speed! Practice fast enough that you lose control, this will prepare you for game speed.

Why is ball handling important for all players? Ball handling skills are not just for players bringing the ball up the court, shooting guards, forwards, and centres all need ball handling skills. Ball handling even helps your shooting… many amateurs wonder why they can shoot well in practice and then miss easy shots in the game. This is usually because they are not great handling the ball, when they dribble into a shot they are not getting the ball on their finger tips or into their shooting pocket. And on a catch and shoot, they may fumble it slightly causing them not to get their fingertips in position, often causing an errant shot.

Like we mentioned earlier, the best way to improve ball handling is through drills. Practicing them every day will completely change your confidence on the court.

Basketball Defence Tips

Putting effort into your defence is the easiest way to impact the game. The key to good defence is staying between the hoop and your man, if they can’t get by you, they can’t score.

Below are some tips that will help:

  1. Keep your feet wide apart. Always be moving your feet but make sure you are in good position, never let your feet cross or get close together because your man will drive by you.
  2. Keep your legs bent. As if you were sitting on a chair, you should play defence from a low position. Staying low enables you to jump high, steel balls, and gain leverage in the post.
  3. Watch the player not the ball. Your opponent may try and get you off balance by using ball fakes, by watching their body you will not get tricked or off balance.
  4. Active Hands. Always be using your hands to get in the way of what your opponent is trying to do whether it be jabbing at the ball, filling passing lanes, face guarding.
  5. Always box out. Your job in defensive rebounding is to make sure your man does not get the ball, when you box out you are almost guarantying that they do not have a play on the ball.
  6. Don’t let your man drive baseline. If you are having trouble stopping dribble penetration then you should force the player to the front of the rim. There is more likely to be teammates there to help then if you allow them to go baseline for a potential easy layup.
  7. Never look away from the player you are guarding. It is good to keep an eye on who has the ball, but not at the expense of losing your man. Stand at an angle to that you can see your man and the ball without moving your head.