Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to visit China for the first time with the folks from Anta. It was an amazing experience that I won’t soon forget.
Going over there, I really didn’t really know what to expect. I guess I pictured China as kind of rural, more like that ancient China feel that you get in movies.
But everywhere that I went was really modern and high-tech. That was probably the most eye-opening and shocking part of the trip.
We took these high-speed trains across the countryside a couple of times. Just going from one city to the next, you see how their landscape is growing. We’d be riding through the countryside, and next thing you know, these humongous skyscrapers show up out of nowhere. Just four of them, like, boom, boom, boom, boom.
In all the cities, the skyscrapers are just enormous. Just the sheer size of the buildings and how many of them there are, that was a “Wow” thing for me. In every city, you see something like 35 cranes in one area building these huge skyscrapers. Then you look farther down, and there’s even more. So they’re just constantly building over there. That was pretty wild to see.
We were there for 10 days, and we had a pretty large group with us. Along with the folks from Anta, there were two marketing guys from my agency Priority Sports, Brian and Alex. Ten days was a little long for Robyn to be away from the girls. So she met me halfway and was there the first five days. Two of her brothers, George and Max, came along as did my good friend, Boris.
We started in Beijing and kind of worked our way counterclockwise south. and then back up to Shanghai. We were scheduled to hit five different cities, but unfortunately, we really only hit four. There was a typhoon barreling right down for Shanghai when we were there and the city was bracing for it—a Category 4 storm—so they had to cancel the last day of events.
My thoughts definitely go out to those people affected by the storm.
INTRODUCING THE GH1
Of course, one of the main purposes of this trip was to unveil my new signature shoe with Anta: the GH1, which releases this fall.
I was really excited to be able to do that. It’s a big deal for me, and I’ve been involved in the process of creating the shoe every step of the way since I signed with Anta last year.
When we started to work on the shoe, some folks from Anta made multiple trips out to Boston. We began with a brainstorm session, and I shared some ideas of what I wanted the theme of the shoe to be, along with some other things that I wanted to incorporate. I pointed out shoes and styles that were my favorites, and we went from there.
Over the next few months, they made a lot of progress. They drew up sketches. I narrowed down my choices, and then we kept working on them until they had three or four different pretty full renders of the shoe. We kept going, and I kept giving feedback. Then, before I knew it, they had a completed shoe.
We picked the colors, and started to work on the fit.
I’ve actually been playing in prototypes for months now. They sent over the first prototype right after the season ended. I played in that, gave them feedback, they made changes and finally, I had exactly what I wanted.
I love the end product that we came up with. I think the shoe looks really cool. I was really, really happy with it. It incorporated a lot of what I wanted, and it’s comfortable as well. The biggest thing for me coming off of the injury was that I wanted to make sure that I was going to have a shoe that could perform well, and be stable and supportive first. After that, I wanted it to look good. They nailed both.
It was also fun to get to go to Xiamen, which is Anta’s headquarters, and meet all the employees. We did a fun event at the headquarters. We also got a chance to go to the factories, which was a little bit outside of Xiamen in another city, and see exactly how my shoes were being made—literally, the whole process. I got to meet Ding Shizhong, the owner of Anta. I’d met a bunch of people from the company when they came over to Boston in the process of the shoe design, but to meet Chairman Ding was special.
I’m really thankful for everyone over there and excited to show off the shoes and the logo and the apparel. And I can’t wait for all that stuff to come out so the fans can get it, too!
I got to do a couple of youth clinics while I was over there and that’s always one of my favorite things that I do as an NBA player. I love doing kids camps and being with the little ones—not even necessarily junior high or high schoolers, but more like the younger kids who are just starting to figure out basketball, and what they like and love to do.
The younger people over there spoke a lot more English than the older people, and we also had a translator with us the whole time, so the language barrier wasn’t an issue.
There’s always one or two out of the bunch where you can see that they’re definitely going to do big things in basketball. You can just see it from such a young age. There’s like a little glimmer in their eyes when they’re playing. That’s one of the most rewarding things for me, to work with those kids. Doing that in China was a great experience.
We had a couple of funny moments with Brian, one my marketing guys from Priority, throughout the trip. He is originally from Korea and was adopted by an American family, but a lot of people in China thought he was a local. So all these people would go up to him speaking in Mandarin, trying to get him to translate for us and he doesn’t speak any Mandarin at all. But we had some fun with it and were egging him on, asking him, “Dude, can you translate for us?”
It’s too bad Brian couldn’t talk a word of Mandarin because it actually would have been nice to be able to speak to the people we met in their language. They had me say a different phrase to the fans in each city. So I know like “Nǐ hǎo,” which is hello, but not much more after that.
I would have liked to do more touristy type stuff, but we were kind of busy the whole time, traveling around the cities and going from one event to the next. So I didn’t get to see too much of the tourist stuff. But I did see the Forbidden City, which was pretty cool. I’m pretty big into history. That place was huge. It was like two miles worth of an ancient Chinese castle. It’s a bummer that you’re not allowed to go inside any of the buildings. But it was cool to just walk around and look at it.
One of the coolest events I got to do over there centered around gaming. They took us to a big building with probably 50 to 100 PC stations where I’m guessing they host eSports tournaments. They had different rooms that you can play in, and it was all decked out in stuff from my sponsors, HyperX and AutoFull.
They set up a show match with me and four other guys against a pretty famous gamer from China and four other guys. It was all HyperX mousepads, keyboards, and headphones, and we were sitting in the AutoFull chairs. And we just played like a League of Legends game. That was fun. It was definitely a cool experience.
LIKE A ROCKSTAR
My main takeaway out of everything was just how passionate and energetic the fans are over there for basketball. Not just for me being there, but for basketball in general, and also for the Celtics. There are so many Celtics fans over there in China, and many of them traveled pretty far just to come to my event and see me. So that was really cool.
They make you feel like a rock star.
At every airport or train station we went to, there were fans waiting there. As soon as we walked out of the terminal, they were doing chants and had poster boards and signs.
They are super passionate over there, bringing all kinds of energy. They knew everything about me, but also everything about my family too. Robyn was a rock star over there. They loved her and they loved our girls as well. A lot of them were fans of the girls, which is kinda hard to believe, but they were just fans of my family, me and my family as a whole. That is definitely a little different than over here.
I’d like to send out a huge thank you to all the fans in China that came to all the events, and really brought so much positive energy. You made the trip so much fun for me and for my family.
谢谢 (Thank You in Mandarin).