Sunday, October 03, 2010

Weekly tidbits: Nancy Liu, SLAM and Taiwan Beer

-- An interview with Nancy Liu
Recently I had an opportunity to interview a special girl who is so hopelessly in love with basketball that she quit her job earier this year and spent 63 days in eight European countries to watch 25 pro teams play in 50 games, including the Eurocups Finals and the Euroleague Final Four because of her passion for the game of basketball.

Her name is Nancy Liu, a Taiwanese girl whose name is probably sort of well-known in some European basketball circles by now. Liu also stayed in Turkey to witness the entire 2010 World Championship and has been featured in a FIBA television interview.

Well, check out the video clip for yourself here and make sure to read her blog at

Yeah, a crazy girl indeed, but every passion starts with a crazy idea, doesn't it? I also happened to find out that Nancy is not only a huge Duke fan and a Virgo but also has been following my blog for a while, which is why I have to write this post for her. Haha.

Read my interview below.

Taiwanese basketball junkie lives her dream in Europe
Nancy Liu has often woken up during the past six months not knowing where she was. All she knew was she was somewhere in Europe -- and that's exactly how she wanted it.

Liu is an uncommonly dedicated sports fan, even by basketball junkie standards. She quit her job and visited 33 European cities in in 63 days from March to May this year to watch professional basketball games in person.

"I love the swishing sound of a basketball going through the net. And I'm uncomfortable if I don't play basketball for two or three days, " said Liu, who started playing basketball in fifth grade when she attended an international school in Beijing, China.

Already familiar with the American basketball scene, including the professional National Basketball Association (NBA) and the college game, Liu said her passion for the sport took her to the other side of the Atlantic to explore an area she was less familiar with the game played.

Liu quit her job at an international trading company and started to map out her plan to visit as many European teams and leagues as possible.

Helped by the many friends she made while volunteering at various local sporting events, including the Jones Cup basketball tournament, the Kaohsiung World Games and the Taipei Deaflympics, Liu set up about 70 percent of her itinerary before departing on what she called, "A Basketball Dream -- Ballin' Europe."

The basketball-loving girl, who majored in applied chemistry at Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University, began her basketball pilgrimage at a Swiss professional league game in Geneva less than 24 hours after arriving there.

In the following two months, the journey took Liu to numerous cities in eight countries -- Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Greece.

In all, Liu attended 25 games and watched 50 teams play in various European domestic leagues as well as the Eurocup Finals and the Euroleague Final Four, both top-tier European basketball competitions.

Liu estimated that she slept an average of less than three hours a night during her stay in Europe and visited as many as three cities in one day.

After the two-month trip, she spent three months in Beijing to work as an intern at NBA China and returned to Taiwan for a day before resuming her travels.

This time she visited Turkey for the 2010 FIBA Men's World Championship and attended all of the tournament's games, while getting to see her favorite player -- Rudy Fernandez of Spain -- perform in person.

To save money during her European travels, Liu said she spent all but one night staying at friends' places, and ended up spending only around NT$200,000 (US$6,377) for the trip.

"Most of my budget was spent on transportation -- flight tickets, train tickets and bus fare, " Liu said. She also had to overcome "the unthinkable" in Europe, such as a French railway strike and the disruption of Euro air traffic by the eruption of a volcano in Iceland that left European skies bathed in inpenetrable ash.

Though basketball was at the center of her trip, Liu said it had even greater significance because she used every opportunity to let everyone know she's from Taiwan.

"This was my way of promoting Taiwan to the world, " she said.

Newspapers in Serbia and Greece gave extensive coverage to her ambitious trip, according to Liu. She was also interviewed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) during the World Championship.

Liu recalled that her parents expressed concerns about the trip when she first brought up the idea, but her father finally gave the go-ahead because "he didn't want me to miss the opportunity to realize my dream."

Her European trek has not brought her dream to an end. If anything it was only the beginning of loftier ambitions, including a return to Europe for the 2011 European Championship, which will be held in Lithuania next summer.

Liu's dream now extends beyond watching basketball games.

"I want to be involved in and initiate basketball-related nongovernment organization (NGO) projects which inspire children and the underprivileged through the sport, " said Liu, who described herself as being "broke" and is looking for a job to support her future plans.

"Basketball has been the inspiration to lift myself out of bed every morning since I was 13. I hope that the sport -- and my journey -- would be an inspiration for other people as well, " she said.

-- SLAM: Jeremy Lin
A while ago I also had a rare chance to be interviewed as a basketball writer by the SLAM magazine writer Ben Sin to talk about Jeremy Lin.

Whether or not Lin’s signing is driven by an agenda to boost ticket sales and buzz is up for debate, but the move has undoubtedly caused a positive reaction for the NBA in Taiwan. Chris Wang, a veteran sports journalist and current columnist for in Taiwan, says Lin’s signing has increased interest in the League, although he isn’t sure if it’s increased enthusiasm for basketball in general, because Wang argues that, “pound for pound, Taiwanese basketball fans love of the game surpasses those in China.”

Lin and his family (parents and two brothers) appeared in an NBA-organized press conference in Taiwan less than 10 days after the signing. Hailed as “the first Taiwan player in the NBA,” Lin received a hero’s welcome at the press conference.

-- Taiwan Beer going to China?
There has been talks that Taiwan Beer is mulling to join the Chinese pro league CBA next year. The Chinese basketball authority has flat out rejected the report, saying that the 17-team league isn't planning for an expansion for now.

TB thought about joining the Chinese league for a couple of reasons. First of all, it figured that it would  benefit the team to be in the Chinese basketball market, which looks like a sponsor-rich and popular territory. Secondly, the relocation will be a part of the expansion plan of the Taiwan Beer Corporation, which has been trying to secure market access to China with warming Taiwan-China relations.

It was reported that TB Chairman Wei Po-tao had said he would spend 20-30 million RMB a year for the team to join the CBA, and the team is considering to make a city in Zhejiang Province as its homecourt.

Conflicting reports stated that TB might stay in Taiwan and choose Taipei as its home, but this is highly unlikely because it will cost Chinese teams a lot more on transportation if they have to play in Taiwan. On the political front, having Chinese teams play in Taiwan will definitely stir up controversy.

Anyway, I tend to look at it as just another rumor for now. It's possible that Taiwanese teams will join the CBA in the future, but not in another three years due to too many concerns and techinical difficulties, I think.