My overseas career is about to begin. As I’m writing this, I'm sitting in the Oakland Airport and I’m less than 24 hours from landing in Guangzhou, China. I’ll be playing 9 games in 12 days in 3 different cities against the national teams from Denmark, Slovenia, and China. I'm feeling so many emotions, but the strongest one by far is excitement.
I know it’s just a 2-week tour and it's in no way permanent, but it feels like a momentous first step. I’ll be wearing a USA jersey and playing basketball internationally for the first time.
I feel like a little kid at Christmas. I can hardly count the reasons I’m excited, but I’ll at least try to jot a few down.
1) I get a chance to play against other professional players and see how I stack up. This reason alone is enough to justify the trip. It’s a great test for me to see where I’m at and where I need to get better. If I want to reach my goals, I know I have to continue to improve. These games will reveal my weaknesses and show me where I need to focus my time and energy.
I relish the opportunity to challenge myself against seasoned veterans and guys who have established overseas careers. I used to fear playing against higher levels of competition because I was afraid it would show that I was inadequate. But now I embrace it. It’s a chance for me put the thousands of hours of hard work to the test to see what I’m made of.
The worst that happens is that I’m overmatched. And if that does happen, I know it will inspire me to work even harder. On the other hand, I could show up and realize that I’m more than ready for this level of competition, which will give me the confidence to play at even higher levels. Seems like a win-win to me.
2) It’s also an amazing opportunity for me to simply spend time in another country. This will be my first time leaving the United States, so why mess around with Mexico and Canada, right? Let’s just dive right into the deep end and go straight to China.
Side note: if anyone wants anything while I'm there, shoot me an email. I’ve heard you can get almost anything there at a fraction of the U.S. price. I saved some space in my bag to bring back some stuff so let me know. Personally, I would like nothing more than to bring back a live panda, but I just don’t see how I could make it happen. I know, I’m disappointed too.
3) I know I already said this, but I get to wear a freaking USA jersey! Unlike high school and college, I’m keeping this one.
4) Jet lag! I probably shouldn’t be excited about this one, but everyone who’s ever traveled internationally whines and complains about how horrible it is. Now I get a chance to experience it for myself. In about 24 hours, I’m definitely going to regret putting this one on the list.
It’s sort of like when a friend tells you something smells terrible. Your first reaction is to immediately check it out and smell it too. Then you both bond over that awful smell. I’m going to experience the horrible phenomenon of jet lag, and I couldn’t be more excited to join in everyone else’s misery.
5) I get to ride in the Chinese bullet trains. I’ve sort of imagined them as futuristic, horizontal rocket ships. With that image in mind, I’m probably going to be disappointed. But, who knows, maybe I’ll be in a fully reclined seat with my feet up, a cup of tea in my hand, traveling 150 mph through the Chinese wilderness.
I know I could've Googled what a Chinese bullet train looks like and how fast it goes, but where's the fun in that?
6) I can’t wait to see how different the international game is. I know each country is going to have a different style so I won’t be able to generalize this experience to Spain or Germany or Australia. But it’s still going to be a totally new feel. New sets, new pace, new flow, new schemes etc.
I’ve tried to do my homework and watch some games, but nothing will fully prepare me for the actual experience of playing.
7) The food. I’ve been warned many times that real Chinese food isn’t Panda Express. And I’m not expecting to be able to get orange chicken and broccoli beef while I’m there (but man, doesn’t that sounds good?). Anyway, assuming my stomach holds up, it’ll be pretty cool to try out the different types of authentic Chinese food. If it’s even close to how good Panda Express is, I’ll be pumped.
I’ve been told our team is going to be eating most of our meals buffet style with lots of options so I'm going to try a little bit of everything. I'll let you know what's good, what's great and what sends me straight to the toilet.
I’m sure there are more things I’m excited about, but it’s hard to sort them out and I wanted to get this post out before my flight takes off.
Let me know if there is anything helpful that I can do while I’m there. Analysis of the playing style? Pictures of the arenas? Videos of me streaking through the streets? I’ll keep you all updated during my trip and let you know how the games go. See you in China!