Robert C. Berring, Jr. Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law

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

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

This book works on several levels. It is an engaging story of a former NBA head coach who devolved into an NBA assistant coach who,when facing retirement, is hired by a Chinese basketball team. The book is good enough to stand on its merits as the exploration of a man facing retirement trying for one last adventure. But the book also shows the reality of 21st Century China at a granular level. Many intrepid authors have written “my experience in China” books but this one has some unique wrinkles. Coach Bob Weiss is not interested in cultural exploration, he wanted a job coaching in Italy or Spain. China offered a spot. Weiss thought that he would be working in a modern metropolis like Shanghai. His job is in Taiyuan, one of China’s back country industrial powerhouses where the tourists are thin on the ground and the pollution is thick in the air. Weiss works for Boss Wang, the team owner and the epitome of the nouveau rich, rough hewn Chinese multi-millionaire. Even other owners find Boss Wang bizarre. It is as if one took a job working for Donald Trump while living in the 1965 version of Cleveland. Traveling to glamorous Shanghai, gray and stolid Beijing and beyond, the Brave Dragons, cellar dwellers in the China Basketball Association, live in the real China. Weiss and his more enlightened wife, see China at street level. The author, Jim Yardley, is a Pulitzer Prize winner who knows China and knows how to write a good sentence. Few books will have blurbs from both China experts and sportswriters on the back of the dust jacket. If you want a feel for the grit and surreal nature of life in China, this is your book. I am going to make my undergraduate students in Chinese Law and Society read it next spring. A spoonful of good writing and sports makes the knowledge go down.