A couple of weeks ago we went to an NBA pre-season game in Shanghai between the Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings. I had read about it on a website a long time ago and convinced Li to get tickets back in August. They weren’t cheap – even far up the tickets were over $100 USD, but I figured for once in seven years – why not?
They held the game at Mercedes Benz Arena – the last time I was there was when I went to the Elton John concert a couple of years ago. This time I realized that the Chinese name is actually Mercedes Benz cultural center (文化中心). I suppose Elton John and basketball are cultural events – but it’s not a literal translation of arena – that’s for sure.
We got to the game a little early to make sure we were able to soak in the experience. I wasn’t sure what it would be like – and I haven’t been to an NBA game in over 8 years, but it was pretty much like I remembered.
Our seats were great – we were right above one of the entrances so nobody was sitting in front of us and we had extra leg room which is always a plus. I had a hot dog (seemed appropriate, though the chicken sandwiches appeared to be the more popular choices) and some popcorn and we enjoyed the dancers and people warming up the crowd.
Looking up above the big screen, I noticed that there were the Chinese and American flags at the top of the arena. Basketball is fairly popular in China – Yao Ming is retired now, but he made an appearance court side and still caused a stir. There were a couple of players who were definitely more well known than others who got huge rounds of applause.
It was obvious that some folks had never been to a western style sporting event before. They had the “kiss camera” and the first several couples they zoomed in on seemed oblivious. Finally one couple got the idea and the entire arena erupted into applause.
The game itself was high scoring with the lead changing constantly. Players rotated throughout to get their minutes and things weren’t decided until the last two minutes or so – which meant everyone stayed until the end. One highlight that occurred during the fourth quarter was that Shaquille O’Neal showed up as an ambassador for Meng Niu – which is a Chinese dairy company, in a cow print T-shirt to help judge a dance competition. It was pretty funny and not something I think he would necessarily do in the US.
After the game was over we made our way slowly back to the subway. I had never gone to an event there during the day, so we were treated to some nice views of Lujiazui across the river. Development appears to be continuing in the area (which was the old 2010 World Expo site), but still not very much has happened, considering the Expo ended four year ago. The Chinese pavilion still seems to be a big tourist draw – I have heard that it is a decent museum, so maybe one of these days we’ll go explore it.
We had a great time and am glad that we planned far enough ahead to enjoy it. What was the last sporting event you went to? Have you ever gone to a sporting event in another country where the culture is different? Any fun stories?