- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (January 22, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307473368
- ISBN-13: 978-0307473363
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #779,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing Paperback – January 22, 2013
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“Rollicking . . . Lively and often hilarious . . . Yardley’s tale resonates far beyond sports . . . He manages to capture, in touchingly human detail, the essence of a nation in transition.”
-Brook Larmer, The Washington Post
“Illuminating . . . Brave Dragons is to Chinese basketball what Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit was to Depression-era horse racing: Both books certainly do justice to their respective sports but also use them as tools to gain access to wholly different cultures.”
-Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“An engaging history of basketball in China . . . In Yardley’s deft handling, the tale of the Brave Dragons and their American coach becomes something much bigger than an account of an oddball basketball team.”
-Jason Zengerle, The New York Times Book Review
“Yardley’s vivid, pointed, and often very funny examination of Chinese basketball has much to say about the country at large—and the way Americans often come flying down the lane at it, only to find themselves called for a charging foul.”
-Jay Jennings, San Francisco Chronicle
“Remarkable . . . Brave Dragons is about much more than basketball. It is about more than Weiss’s adventures. It is a serious look at the deep divisions between American and Chinese cultures.”
-Steve Kelley, The Seattle Times
“Brave Dragons is a winner—informative and conversational, occasionally funny and frequently suspenseful . . . Yardley rewards readers with his close eye and felicitous prose. This book amounts to cultural catnip.”
-Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Exceptionally ambitious . . . Yardley’s observations of a country in transition are instructive, sometimes even poetic.”
-Bill Littlefield, The Boston Globe
“Entertaining . . . Yardley presents basketball and young China’s growing fascination with it as an apt, pacy metaphor for a China cautiously engaging with the West.”
-David Shaftel, Mint
“A-. Brave Dragons is thorough micro- and macro-history, capable of sucking in both the basketball-obsessed and the non-athletically inclined.”
-Vadim Rizov, The A.V. Club
“Yardley strikes gold . . . The Brave Dragons put together a decent season, and Yardley a memorable book.”
“Unique . . . Engaging . . . A fantastically implausible, ultimately cautionary tale of how the Chinese and American ways often mix like oil and water.”
“Brave Dragons has all the ingredients of a farce: larger-than-life characters, sudden plot twists, and don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out moments. But Jim Yardley sees the bigger picture: In many ways, basketball is a metaphor for the emergence of China as an economic power and its relationship with the rest of the world. “
-Curt Schleier, The Seattle Times
“Masterly . . . Brave Dragons is a must-read for any hoops fans with a hankering to understand what is and isn’t happening in China.”
-Alan Paul, Slam
“An engaging story that will appeal to sports fans and general readers alike.”
“In delightful and insightful ways this wonderful book takes the reader into a world, China, through another world, basketball, that even helps illuminate a third world, America. I couldn’t put it down.”
-Ira Berkow, co-author with Walt Frazier of Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool
“Jim Yardley’s terrific book, telling the story of an obscure Chinese basketball team and its American coach, opens a vivid window on an unexpected item in the broader Sino-American encounter, and it does so not just perceptively but entertainingly as well. Nobody should mistake Brave Dragons for a sports book alone—yes, it’s full of action, big personalities, and excitement, but it’s also a universal story of human striving and cultural collision that's hard to put down.”
-Richard Bernstein, author of Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment
“By following a backwater Chinese basketball team and its new American coach for a season, Jim Yardley has created a character-driven narrative that tells the reader as much about contemporary China as it does about sport. Yardley takes us into the gym, on the road, and behind closed doors in this immersive, funny and suspenseful book, which I couldn't put down.”
-Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
“Jim Yardley's wonderful book not only provides a unique prism for understanding today’s China but is as entertaining a book as I've read in some time. It's also a basketball fan's delight.”
-Bryan Burrough, author of Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco
About the Author
Jim Yardley has worked as a journalist for The New York Times for the past fourteen years, including eight years as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief in China and India. His reportage on China’s legal system won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, which he shared with a colleague, Joseph Kahn. He has also won or shared numerous other awards, including the Overseas Press Club Award for best international environmental coverage and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for best foreign reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists. He lives in New Delhi with his wife, Theo, and their three children, Olivia, George, and Eddie.
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Top customer reviews
As the author follows the team around China for a season, he gives us an enlightening lesson in Chinese history and a clear look at the tensions between individualism and the good of the state. Through the microcosm of basketball, he shows us the bewildering, often frustrating attitude of today's Chinese, "we want all things American - but we want them our way!"
A terrific and funny read!
I enjoyed "getting to know" the characters such as Joe the translator, Michael the Nigerian center, Kobe the upcoming Chinese player, the wacky and eccentric Boss Wang and of course coach Bob Weiss.
The contrasting experiences of Bonzi Wells and coach Bob Weiss in China described in the book are excellent examples of unsuccessful/successful cross-cultural adaptation to China and other contexts. These examples should be highlighted for foreign athletes headed to the CBA who seek to make a successful transition to the league and life in the middle kingdom.
NBA coach Bob Weiss (brought in as a “foreign expert” to help the team) maintained his sense of humor and flexibility in a situation of constant change, drama and turmoil (much due to the eccentric and erratic owner of the Brave Dragons, “Boss Wang”). He and his wife seemed to embrace their time in China, caring for the players, learning some of the language (the book mentions coach Weiss speaking in Mandarin at a press conference much to the delight of the Chinese present) making Chinese friends, and exploring the city on their own.
In contrast to Weiss, Bonzi Wells (the highest profile foreign player in league history) wasn’t able to adapt to life in China, clashing with the owner, isolating himself in his hotel room, and choosing not to return to the team after the New Year vacation. I was especially interested to read about the Wells story since I knew about him from his days at Ball State (I grew up not far from his hometown of Muncie, Indiana).
Along with the entertaining story of the Brave Dragons, the book provided interesting cultural and historical insights. It was interesting to read that basketball was first introduced to China in Tianjin (at the YMCA), a city that I spent more than three years teaching and studying in; I’d love to visit the old gym the next time I travel there. Another example included discrimination faced by a Taiwan player by his mainland teammates and coaches of the Brave Dragons. I hadn’t heard much about this kind of treatment towards Taiwanese in Mainland China, and would like to know how often this occurs in Chinese society today.
Yardley also provided some interesting glimpses into the CBA such as claims of fixing matches by owners and referees and the enormous salaries that foreign players can earn. I got the impression that Chinese owners/coaches stress constant drilling and practice much more than their American counterparts, some even implying that this is the reason why Chinese athletes retire relatively so early.
I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in basketball, China or even cross-cultural relations/adaptation.
The subject matter might be considered mundane, in that we are not talking about an Arab Spring type of story where material is so rich, it probably writes itself. Rather, we are talking about a basketball team's season in China.
The experiences of Americans living there are also among the most entertaining facets of the story. Chinese culture is very closed to outsiders as Yardley often tells us. Even, he, after six years living in the country cannot really explain some Chinese customs.
While the team doesn't have a blowout season, and their standings within Chinese basketball haven't really improved much, Yardley cannot be blamed for this. The story is still worth reading.
There are times when the story gets slow, and some parts I skipped out of impatience when the author delves into lengthy history lessons. One such part that seems like it could have been pared down is the history of the YMCA in China. Granted, this is what brought basketball to China, but I found the history of Communism and Insdustry in China emmensely more captivating.
In the end, it is Yardleys proficiency at telling a story that kept me reading. He has a distinctly New-York-Times-style of writing that just flows and feels natural and academic at the same time for me. The characters are very memorable and often entertaining. Having finished the story a week ago, the thing that will most stick with me is the team's owner, Boss Wang, followed closely by how well written the book was.