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Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  284 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
The wonderfully original story of a struggling Chinese basketball team and its quixotic, often comical attempt to right its fortunes by copying the American stars of the NBA—a season of cultural misunderstanding that transcends sports and reveals China’s ambivalent relationship with the West.
When the Shanxi Brave Dragons, one of China’s worst professional basketball tea
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2012)
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Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought that this book was an excelent read. Why? It was a page turner,I never wanted to put the book down. The title also caught my attention. I love basketball and I can't imagine an American coach coaching a Chinese basketball team the way he did.

The main character is an retired MBA coach named Bob Weiss. Bob is very serious about basketball and life. But, his greatest gift is his sense of humor. What had been his secret to great coaching in the past was his jokes used as ice-breakers. Gue
Jul 13, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Only 1/3 of the way through, but so far this is the best book about China! So far would recommend for anyone traveling there or planning to move/live there, or who has friends/family who are going down that path. Don't know much about basketball or the NBA, so can't say if it's "good" from that standpoint, but sports knowledge is not a prerequisite (even my non-sports loving mom read and loved it).
La'Tonya Rease Miles
Waaaaay more interesting than I suspected. At first I thought this was going to be one of those horrible books featuring a young white American coach and quirky Chinese players. Rather, this was a pleasantly nuanced analysis of Chinese and American culture clashes (and intersections). Basketball just happened to be the vehicle. In fact, Coach Weiss does not play a major role. Great read!
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Chinese comments in this book that it takes a foreigner at least ten years to even begin to get a glimpse of how Chinese culture operates, much less understand it. That may be, but this book, in following the course of a mediocre Chinese professional basketball team through one season gives at least a glimpse of a glimpse.

First of all, I had no idea that basketball is so popular in China, but it’s a sport that has been around for the better part of a century, and what really made it take off i
Michele Weiner
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a funny, interesting book about the culture clash between NBA and CBA. It describes the experiences of foreign basketball players, American, European and African, in the "professional" league in China, which is a mish mash of private and government-run franchises. The BraveDragons are from Taiyung, in an ancient and ugly, pollution clogged coal mining district. They are owned by a wealthy, self-made factory owner who has sole authority over the team and all it's employees. The Boss, as h ...more
Rebecca Martin
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Yardley has chosen a very clever way to examine modern China. What he does is pick a subject that most Americans will be somewhat familiar with, the NBA. Then he transplants the subject to China by following an American retired NBA coach who has been hired to coach a privately-owned team in one of the lesser-known (from the Western perspective) Chinese cities (Taiyuan in Shanxi province). We might think, well, the NBA is the NBA no matter where it lives and basketball is basketball. But Yardley ...more
Jady Tsao
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jady by: Coach Huan-Po Sun
At last.
This book was hard to start, easy to flip over the pages in the middle, but difficult to end.
I read this book because my coach, Huan-Po Sun, a former Taiwanese player, is in this book.

In the book, I saw coach fighting very hard, taking all the harsh challenges just because he has a dream. He simply loves basketball. So simple that this love drove him far away from home to China, where people from his country were not welcomed. Testing his strength, all he got is return was frustration. H
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Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Courtside Culture Clash: Jim Yardley’s Brave Dragons

When Bob Weiss, a former NBA coach, was invited in 2008 to teach China’s worst professional basketball team how to play like Americans, he looked forward to a year spent abroad with his wife at a laid-back consultant position. What he actually got was a season spent as an on-and-off head coach, trying to lead a team that hadn’t seen a winning season in years, while navigating the mores and cultural idiosyncrasies of a nation on the rise. Pulitz
I only made it halfway into this, so I won't rate it. I was underwhelmed by it. After reading 200 pages I simply put this down and never returned to it. I didn't even feel the need to google search what ended up happening with the season.

I think my biggest issue with "Brave Dragons" was that it lacked a really strong central character. Bob Weiss, the NBA coach brought to China to coach the underperforming Shanxi Brave Dragons, comes off as this really bland, passive guy. He's essentially elbowe
Feb 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If you like basketball and have an interest in China, this book is great. If you don't really care about basketball but are interested in China, the book is so-so. On a whim, I borrowed this book from the library because I was hoping to read about a CHinese basketball team, an American coach, and how the two cultures clash. The book does deliver on that aspect but it is also a LOT of Chinese basketball and NBA history. Those parts were boring but the parts devoted to the coach and how he gets al ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no question that Brave Dragons is aimed at audience with little knowledge of China as many insights provided in the book can be considered obvious for Chinese readers. But I can only imagine the strangeness and exoticism that it may have on foreign readers. But as an individual desperately trying to learn about the game of basketball in China, with shame, has to agree that I've learned more about the game I love in my home country from this book than any other mediums that I have previo ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really fun read--obviously right up my alley as an American basketball coach in Asia, but you don't need to know basketball or live in Asia to appreciate the book. Fascinating and relevant vignettes describing the culture clashes and the history and recent development of China make it worth it, along with a cast of fascinating characters.
May 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting collection of stories about a year the author spent in China following a pro basketball team. I describe this book as a collection because there did not seem to be an overarching story to connect the chapters together. There are references to the YMCA starting to teach basketball in China over 100 years ago. The author mentions that the current YMCA in China is not part of the international YMCA. There are many references to the various Chinese stars in the NBA. The ex-NBA coach, ...more
Mar 02, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, asia
When I started reading this as a manuscript I didn't realize I only had about half of it in my hands and was thoroughly dismayed when I realized I would have to wait several months to get my hands on the rest.
This is really good. I know very little about basketball and don't follow the NBA, but as far as the cultures clash is concerned this is a precious, funny, insightful gem. If you like James Fallows, you'll love this. And the characters--they're all so unique and sometimes larger than life
David Hilton
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll read anything about basketball and the comparison between American and Chinese culture turned what could have been a junk-food outing into a nutritious meal. Some of the stuff Boss Wang (the owner of the Brave Dragons) pulls is shocking and appalling. Still, I can see what Coach Weiss and his wife Tracy were so intrigued and invested in their life in China.

Interesting Chinese proverb from the book, "A big tree catches the wind."

Does the Chinese emphasis on drills and fitting in preclude the
Jul 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book really didn't do it for me. I'm not a huge follower of basketball in America in general and when you throw in a bunch of chinese names and teams I was utterly lost. This book was required reading for my school and I found myself struggling to get through it. I skipped over large portions of the story as I felt there was a lot of irrelevant information. I was constantly bored. I wasn't big on the author's writing style. Also, the book was hardly about Bob Weiss at all. The whole book wa ...more
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American journalist tags along with a Chinese pro basketball team that has just hired a professional American coach and a star ex-NBA player. The resulting cultural conflicts are mostly not so surprising (e.g. Chinese coaches require far more practice hours than do Americans), but the book gives great detail about life inside of China (the food, New Year's traditions, history of cultural mobility, endemic corruption).

Yardley's greatest contribution is his exposition of the Chinese-American relat
Tong L.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is an interesting look at Chinese professional basketball. There's a lot about how different the league is. The team that is covered seems completely disfunctional. I got to see some of the recycled stars of the NBA - especially Bonzi Wells. The Chinese experience of Bonzi versus the Chinese experience for Weiss was marked by their openness to cultural differences. The Weiss' was good as they learned a lot about the people and culture of China, learned to speak some of the language, mad ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Professional basketball and Chinese history and culture are not topics commonly lumped together, but Jim Yardley takes on the challenge in Brave Dragons. I originally picked this book looking for a new take on China, which I got, but I do have to say that I wasn’t expected to be quite so overwhelmed with basketball. (Okay, to be fair, the cover sporting a basketball jersey should have given me a clue that the book would be heavy on the sports, but I looked right past that to the awesome font tha ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, ibooks
Intriguing story about the Chinese Basketball Association and its development. In an attempt to partner with if not compete with the NBA, the CBA brings in US players and, the subject of this book, a former NBA coach. We see the difference between the NBA and CBA and between the US and China. Really well written book that shows just how different our cultures are even when playing assumedly the same game.
Joe Drape
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brave Dragon is a very fun book and a wonderful way to learn how very ambitious China is and how differently it pursues hopes and dreams. It's a book of cultural anthropology disguised as Bad News Bears on Far East Hardwood. Bob Weiss is a wonderful protagonist - mellow, bemused, world weary. And Boss Wang, the team's owner, is his wonderfully etched antagonist. The bit players all have wonderful turns. Truly a wonderful read.

Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caught up in the Linsanity (for Jeremy Lin of the NY Knicks) and full of pride for an emerging, major Asian-American athlete, I picked up this book to see how the Chinese military industrial complex churns out athletes. Very entertaining take on how East meets West on the basketball court. I'd love to read a follow-up book detailing Stephon Marbury's CBA years and further adventures of NBA coach Bob Weiss in the CBA.
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an interesting look into a basketball team (Shanxi Brave Dragons) in the Chinese Basketball Association. The impetus was the hiring of Bob Weiss, a former NBA coach, first as a consultant and then as head coach. The book compared and contrasted the coaching styles of the "western" NBA coaches and the "eastern" Chinese coaches/bosses.

I thought there would be more focus on Bob Weiss's experience, but his POV dropped out at about the halfway point.
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot more informational and somewhat less exciting than you would expect a book that heavily features Bonzi Wells to be. Quite interesting as a study of the sports system in China, it strikes a good balance of looking at the individuals and their role in the larger structure, and mostly avoids half-baked attempts at making broad cultural or political statements, probably the book's wisest choices.
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
enjoyable story about the first NBA coach to work in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Yardley adds passion and mixes the combustible scenario of a new coach, a poor team and a craaaaaazy owner. Not only were the stories funny, but the deeper issues of why China has not progressed in basketball (and soccer for that matter) were explored. Over-training, and a lack of structure to promote professionalism in management, coaching and playing is the answer. Recommended.
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Yardley does a great job of telling the main story of an ex-NBA coach traveling to China to coach a pro Chinese team for a crazy owner while sprinkling in asides about the birth of basketball in China, the YMCA and other cultural observations. Each time one of the tangents started to lose my interest, the author would get right back into the story of the team's season.
Feb 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book--hard to find a book where you can learn about China and the NBA all in one. Very interesting look into a part of Chinese culture that doesn't get a lot of scrutiny. If you borrow the book, make sure the chapter pages are in order. In my copy the last few chapters the pages were out of order!
Scott Tobias

A little dry in the telling, but an otherwise revealing look at how Chinese basketball culture severely limits its players' development. The decision to bring an NBA coach onto a Chinese professional squad speaks to an owner's aspirations to greatness, but the restrictions immediately imposed on him keep the team from growing and box the players into a stolid, losing style of play.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read for anyone interested in basketball or international politics. Yardley found a way to tell a story that's both human and historical, and tells you as much about basketball as the history of US-China relations. I don't want to make this thing seem dense and educational, because it's not: It's also a great yarn. Really.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun read and wonderfully reported allegory on the complex dynamics of foreigner and local relationships in China. The writing is excellent and the superb reporting and storytelling makes this a far superior book than those written by James Fallows and other China-philes who turn sloppy diary entries into published books. One of my favorite China books in quite a while.
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