The massive NBA marketing machine rumbled through Shanghai last night in the first of three “China Games,” the latter two to be held in Macau beginning tonight. The pre-season game between the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers was held at the Qizhong Sports Stadium in the Min-hang district. Some observations:
- The stadium is FAR. We’re literally talking “120 RMB cab ride to a place literally off the Shanghai city map” far. The sad thing about it all? It’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from this Shanghaiist’s day job. Damn those municipal tax benefits doled out to huge corporations!
- The NBA sure sees itself as a premium product here, with ticket prices ranging from 800 RMB all the way up to 10,000 RMB. That’s quite a mark-up for a pre-season game with no implications on the standings. Maybe that explained the spattering of empty seats throughout the upper rows, and the handful of scalpers chilling in our seats as we arrived.
- Without Yao Ming on the floor (as was the case with the first China Game a few years back), the fan favorite on the court was clearly Lebron James, who sat out the entire fourth quarter (it is the pre-season, after all) and never seemed to break a sweat. That didn’t stop him from dishing out some nice assists and scoring on a couple of beautiful spinning lay-ups and an alley-oop that got most people jumping out of their seats. The star that got the second loudest round of applause? Try the Chinese acrobat during halftime who skillfully kicked bowls up onto her head while balancing on a unicycle.
- Kudos to the public address announcer who bellowed out in both Chinese and English, who pronounced “Larry Hughes” perfectly but struggled with “Zydrunas Ilgauskas.” We have no idea why this was the case.
- A basketball note: we are now big fans of the Orlando cheerleaders
- Celebrity sightings: Jet Li in a box seat with a group of kids with leukemia, Hong Kong tween favorite Edison Chen, and Kenny G, who seems to be quite the icon here in Shanghai. Which, of course, he totally deserves to be.
- Even midway through the fourth quarter, the cabbies outside were already in negotiation-only mode. We hate to think what the crush would have looked like had we left with everyone else after the game was over. We hear there were shuttle buses taking people back towards People’s Square, but given that we sat in traffic for 15 minutes just trying to get close the stadium, we didn’t want to take our chances.
- Oh yeah, the Magic won 90-86. Read about it here
Picture from xinhuanet