Alan Anderson (second to the right) Anthony Roberson (right)
By Benjamin Cost
Hip hop and basketball, two items firmly linked in American culture, made a resounding splash at Hip Hop Hijack’s 1 year Anniversary party at Zeal this past Friday.
Spinning off the night, DJ Lantern (the tour DJ for hip-hop hall-of-famers Jay-Z, Eminem and Nas) ignited Zeal with old-school fervor, awakening raw hip-hop fans from their seemingly indefinite mainstream pop-induced coma. Rap aficionados from all walks of Shanghai life could finally rejoice on the light spattered dance-floor, gettin’ “hyphy” and brushin’ that dirt off their shoulder to rap fossils like “Wanksta” and “Empire State of Mind.”
DJ Lantern’s inclusion of such nostalgic greats even made one forgive patrons for belting out their favorite songs in off-key European/Chinese lilts or lumbering recklessly around a barely navigable dance-floor. For party organizer, Cyril Delon, the night was an inspiring chapter in his childhood-sparked quest to supply Shanghai’s rap-starved fans with “real deal” urban music.
However, the show was arguably “hijacked” by the guest appearance of former NBA players who, along with other foreign pros from the CBA, occupied Zeal’s central table. Even in the midst of Zeal’s colorful cast of fans and the catchiest beats in history, the basketball giants cast impressive figures, their individual champagne flagons appearing like beer bottles in their mammoth hands.
We caught up to past NBA Ballers (and avid hip hop fans!), the Charlotte Bobcats’ Alan Anderson (now guard/forward for the Shandong Lions), and Anthony Roberson, the former point-guard talent for the Knicks, Bulls and other NBA ball clubs, to ask a few questions about China’s basketball scene and culture in general.
How would you compare playing in China to playing in the NBA?
Anthony Roberson: In the U.S., there’s more one-on-one match ups going on. It’s more of a team game in China. Some [NBA] players can adjust and some can’t.
Alan Anderson: I’d say the speed is slower here. No defensive three seconds, which makes it a lot tougher to score.
How do you see China’s basketball culture developing in the years to come? Do you predict that more foreign players will opt to play in China in the future?
Anthony Roberson: China already has a great basketball scene. I mean, Chinese culture teaches younger guys to work hard and they start playing at a young age. I think more NBA players will play in the future, though. The growth of the league brought me here. The economy’s booming now. This will be a big year in the CBA.
Alan Anderson: The CBA season’s only three months long, so that’s exciting for NBA players (regular NBA season spans about twice that long).
Aside from basketball, how are you finding life in China? Any favorite activities or foods?
Anthony Roberson: I love trying different things. I’m a people person.
Alan Anderson: The culture here is diverse, also Americanized. I like to eat the salmon, steak, and burgers.
We’ve been there, homes. Salmon is da best!
With the NBA lockout in the U.S. still unresolved, we can expect to see a flurry of American b-ball stars joining CBA in the near future.
And with a rapidly-growing Chinese fan-base for classic hip hop, there is no doubt that more rap legends will bring their talents to China. In the booming economy, both American past-times will inevitably thrive in the western-culture hungry Middle Kingdom, even more than they are already. HOLLA!
Hip Hop Hijack occurs once a month on a Friday at Zeal. Specifics to be released in calendar.