Now something of a personal story, if you’ll allow BiE. One of the great things about working a blog such as BallinEurope – after getting proper press seating for stuff like Euroleague Final Four and FIBA World Championships, of course – are the people you meet as a journalist.
BiE’s not talking about hobnobbing with coaches and players so much – though talking (actually talking!) with Pops Mensah-Bonsu is quite the fulfilling experience – as the warm association with enthusiasts and peers. Happily in the sports journalism world, these are one and the same.
At the Euroleague Final Four alone, BiE had the pleasure of chatting up sportswriters from Serbia and Italy, the braintrust of quality sites like DraftExpress, freelancer Tim Warren on assignment with the Washington Post, the amazing Slam and Freaknick of Euroleague Adventures, fantasy basketball **#$#*#$%ing mastermind Javier Gancedo and scads of hardworking Euroleague front office folks.
But no one who met one particular writer there would forget the incredible whirlwind of drive and enthusiasm for all things basketball: Some of us know her as Nancy, but thousands of her readers daily identify her as “A Taiwanese Basketball Girl With A Basketball Dream.”
See, after first receiving a lightning bolt of revelatory inspiration from a newspaper photograph some 13 years ago – The Basketball Dreamer’s only a twentysomething now, it should be noted – she finally up and quit her job last March and, in Kerouackian fashion enviable to sentimental old dudes such as yours truly anchored down with young children, took to the road and came to Europe.
The purpose: As the bumper sticker-like intro at the Basketball Dream website reads, “63 days, 33 cities, 8 countries, 25 matches & 50 teams (including the Eurocup Finals & Euroleague Final Four). The journey, the Dream of a Taiwanese Basketball girl leaving her footsteps on the European courts, sharing her Basketball love in Europe with the rest of the World.” More philosophically, the “Dream is to promote Basketball & inspire, and that is all there is to it.”
Yes, the term “philosophy” is appropriate her, for this woman’s philosophy *is* basketball, BiE tells ya. The Basketball Dreamer lives a life of wall-to-wall basketball. When she’s not kicking around the courts looking for a game (or perhaps watching the games, what with a recently-gotten bum knee), she got an eye on a zillion screens and scores. Just yesterday, A Basketball Dream managed to fire off update-style posts and/or commentary – the Dreamer’s favorite online medium appears to be Facebook – on the Golden State-Phoenix, Duke-Michigan State, Cleveland-Miami, Los Angeles-Houston, and Maccabi Tel Aviv-Žalgiris Kaunas games. Even more impressive: Taiwan is EST +12.
In any case, this self-proclaimed aspirant to the title “Mother Theresa of Basketball” succeeded in her amazing road trip while the story captured hearts and minds of media worldwide. After landing on Euroleague TV (see above), the cause also landed her time on Taiwanese national television and print everywhere from Greece to Serbia to Hong Kong and back to Taiwan again – to name only a few paying attention to this whirlwind of basketball obsession.
Naturally, without an “On the Road” at the publishers’ to fund a second summer voyage in 2011, the Dreamer finds herself with few financial possibilities to fuel an even more enthusiastic trip. Ever the optimist and armed with a good cause, however, A Basketball Dream has applied for nonprofit backing in Taiwan.
Much to BiE’s surprise, the Dreamer somehow figured that perhaps BallinEurope.com might help in the quest for funding or possibly provide further armament in the perpetual war for publicity. BiE often chats up this tremendous natural force of an enthusiast but this week, Nancy spared some time to talk specifically about her goals, hopes and the future of the Basketball Dream.
BallinEurope: So what’s the status of A Basketball Dream 2011?
A Basketball Dream: I’m applying to a fund for Taiwanese “dreamers” like me to see if they can sponsor me to keep on travelling and promoting inspiration through basketball. My plan is [to start at] the NCAA Final Four in Houston, then spend 2.5 months visiting all 30 NBA teams, then on to Latvia to support Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) at the FIBA U19 Worlds, then into the Balkans to hopefully getting involved with some camps there, then the FIBA Asia championship in Lebanon, EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and finally the World Deaf Basketball Championship in Italy.
BiE: And the goal is…?
ABD: To INSPIRE through basketball by promoting all the different games around the world. And to especially inspire the kids through [basketball] camps where interacting and teaching them about this game of basketball in turn teaches them about life and lets them have a sense of belonging. And when i say kids, i ‘m particularly into working with those who are “less advantaged.”
BiE: So you’re basically a one-woman FIBA…
ABD: Except also with the NBA and NCAA!
BiE: Everywhere you go, people want to hear your story and are willing to publicize it. What makes you and your quest so compelling, in your opinion?
ABD: Because i’m a girl. A Taiwanese girl. A Taiwanese girl who *plays* basketball.
BiE: Really? You think that’s it?
ABD: OK, because my love for basketball is second to none. Basketball gives me the strength and the supporters of A Basketball Dream that I meet along the journey give me the power, but i can’t do it on my own. I have *started* on my own … but i can’t finish it on my own.
BiE: Tell me about the picture on the website
ABD: The second i saw it in the newspaper about 13 years ago, it touched my heart, went straight down inside. I was GRINNING at the newspaper (gladly, if i remember correctly, that nobody saw me). I love kids, love to see smiles on their faces because it makes me smile. And not just on my face but from the heart! It brightens you up. And the fact that that kid was trying to pick up that huge-a** basketball, that just spoke to me.
I knew that I wanted to do something like that – I wanted to put smiles on kids’ faces (and see the happy faces, personally!) through this wonderful sport that I hold so dear, that I call mine.
Back then, i was just getting into the NBA, by the way. But basketball was already a big part of my life then. It’s all I wanted to do all day (waiting for PE class so I can shoot some with my friends.
BiE: Now, how tall are you?
ABD: Between 5’5” and 5’6”. (I only got to know my height in feet and inches, by the way, because of basketball.)
BiE: And you told me you *played center in college*?
ABD: Yes, i played center in varsity at National Chiao Tung University, because i was the third-tallest, i believe.
BiE: Do you play these days?
ABD: Not with my knee.
BiE: What happened?
ABD: I played too hard, pushed myself too hard, the weather changes (in the morning, it’s 5ºC degrees, 25ºC at midday, and then there’s another bigtime drop in the evening) and i didn’t warm up well. I woke up after two days straight days of ballin’ for two- to five-hour stretches in non-stop 3-on-3s. Finally, i woke up on January 17th at 6am in pain and i couldn’t bend my right knee at all. And i had just ordered a P90X – i was about to work on that “dunk” – ha ha!
BiE: So who did you manage to actually meet on your 2010 tour?
ABD: I met the coaching staff of Efes Pilsen, the players on Montepaschi Siena, Vlade Divac and his wife, Stephen Curry, Bostjan Nachbar, Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, Kevin Durant … also A.C. Green. He’s a good person.
BiE: And you just approach these folks, tell them about the mission and chat?
ABD: Yeah, it’s pretty much all for A Basketball Dream
BiE: Do you have a personal life?
ABD: Ha ha, yes, i do, but i really wouldn’t mind spending all my time on basketball. I mean, the fact that i’m injured now helps. Or else i’d *always* be out on the courts.
But dedication is what it takes, right? So before I can sit back and relax, until the Dream is realized (if ever), i’ll dedicate myself to it as much as I can.