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Steve Kelley: At the Olympics

Steve Kelley, a Seattle Times sports columnist for 25 years, is covering his eighth Olympics. He'll share news and tidbits as the Beijing Games unfold.

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August 7, 2008 12:47 PM

The NBA in China

Posted by Steve Kelley

Underestandably we're a little down on the NBA in Seattle these days. Something about the Oklahoma City Thunder, or Blunder, or whatever they've decided to call themselves. And, pessimistic as it is to think this way, it could be another decade before the league returns to Seattle and a remodeled KeyArena.

But half a world away, in Dongdan Park, just a block from Beijing's busiest shopping area, the kids on the court are in love with the game. And much of the affection is a tribute to marketing. The courts here are sponsored by Nike. There are swooshes on every center circle on every full court.

During non-Olympic times, posters of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade cover the walls and fences surrounding the courts. A block away, a Nike store showcases jerseys, shoes, just about every saleable item from all of this Fab Three.

Pointing in the direction of the Nike store, 15-year-old Wang Xiao Giang, who plays for his school team in Hunan Province, says "You can look at all the stuff right there. You can see pictures of all the great NBA players. The NBA is everywhere at the store."

Wang admits, almost heretically, that his favorite player isn't China's Yao Ming. He says it's Miami's Dwyane Wade, a member of the U.S. Olympic team. And his second favorite is Denver's Allen Iverson.

"I like his lifestyle," Wang said. "I think he's cool."

Nike cool. Marketably cool.

Wang also had a prediction for the Olympic tournament, which opens Sunday with a game between China and the United States.

"I don't think the United States will win the tournament, but I know that China cannot beat them," he said. "But I think China can win enough games to get to the round of eight. That would be very good for us."

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