In the mountains of Guizhou Province in Southwest China, nestled among the winding paths and picturesque views, is Taipan village – an unexpected epicenter of basketball fever. As the clock ticks closer to midnight, a basketball game in this village gathers momentum, attracting tens of thousands of onlookers and millions more virtually, all tuning in with bated breath.
Basketball isn’t new to Taipan; it’s an age-old tradition. Since 1936, when the first humble court was erected, basketball has become synonymous with local festivities. Historically, during the harvest celebrations of the Miao people, an indigenous ethnic group that largely populates the village, tournaments would take place with rice as the prized possession for winners. Fast forward to today, the winnings have evolved into local specialties: cows, sheep, and piglets.
Now, the village has taken the local passion and turned it into a phenomenon dubbed the “Village BA” tournament. Comparable to New York’s renowned Rucker Park, this village tournament has surged in popularity since its inception last summer. Participants range from locals like farmers, cooks, and drivers to those who take breaks from jobs in distant provinces, all to revel in the sport they love.
One such enthusiast, 28-year-old Ou Minghui, exemplifies this passion. While his day-to-day revolves around cattle farming, basketball remains the love of his life. With inspirations like Kobe Bryant fueling his drive, Ou not only led his team to victory in a previous Village BA championship but also bagged the title of the tournament MVP.
It’s not just the locals who’ve taken notice. NBA stars like Jimmy Butler have been enchanted by the charm of Village BA. Butler’s visit to Taipan, where he embraced local Miao culture, saw him draped in traditional silver jewelry and garnered a widespread audience’s applause. His reactions? Pure amazement, as he termed the experience “incredible” multiple times.
Basketball celebrities aren’t the only ones getting involved. Ben Simmons, the Brooklyn Nets player, donated a basketball court to another town in Guizhou, exemplifying the profound impact and significance of the sport in this region.
While the game remains the core, the Village BA experience extends beyond the court. Halftime sees a fusion of culture with traditional performances, while the sidelines are dotted with stalls offering local delicacies. The Village BA phenomenon isn’t just a game, but a grand carnival.
Local businesses like Cen Jianglong’s restaurant flourish during the tournament season. With over 400,000 tourists in 2022 alone, Taipan village saw a revenue boost of approximately $3 million. Mirroring this impact, a soccer tournament a few hours away in Rongjiang county signed a collaboration with the English Premier League.
But this year is even more special. The Village BA is expanding as a national tournament, part of a broader plan to rejuvenate China’s countryside. As the finals draw near, Taipan, where games traditionally play from the dark hours into the morning, known as “dawn culture,” is preparing to showcase its spirit.
The Village BA is not just about the sport. It’s a testament to passion, tradition, and the extraordinary ways they come together. As a social media user aptly shared, referencing a Kobe Bryant quote: while Kobe highlighted the unseen side of Los Angeles at 4 am, through Village BA, the world now witnesses the soul of Taipan at that very hour.