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Growing the grassroots game

By Xu Jingxi | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-07 09:10

Summer is the busiest season for Yan Shuai, a Beijing-based street basketball player who is hired to play alongside touring American superstars in China.

Usually the NBA star hogs the limelight, however Klay Thompson's "Shock the Game" tour for Chinese sneaker manufacturer Anta proved a little different.

The tour actually kicked off before the Golden State Warriors shooting guard arrived in China, casting the spotlight on grassroots players.

Yan and two other homegrown players embarked on 12-stop trip throughout June with the aim of selecting the best players in each city, chosen for their prowess in four-on-four hoops.

The 36 players then squared off in Guangzhou last Saturday, and the winning team from Nanchang, Jiangxi province, played against Thompson, Yan and two of his fellow street players.

"Rather than purely showcasing the NBA superstar, Anta's tour is more true to the spirit of basketball, which is about playing as a team and embracing challenges," Yan said.

Anta's commitment to the grassroots game extends to affordability.

James Zheng, the company's brand president, believes Anta's pricing means it can successfully take on Nike and adidas in the domestic market.

A pair of Thompson's signature Anta sneakers cost less than 600 yuan, and Zheng said: "Most people play basketball outdoors and on hard cement courts, so it's actually too expensive for most consumers to buy a pair of shoes more than 1,000 yuan ($147)."

"Anta is devoted to the development of basketball in China, especially the grassroots game," added Zheng, whose company has hosted college tournament AUBA since 2015 and covers 50 universities across 12 cities.

The tournament features games among different departments within colleges and, like the NBA, has a regular season, playoffs and finals.

(China Daily 07/07/2017 page22)

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