Sunday, September 25, 2005

Iverson In Asia

Here in Shanghai, you often can’t tell the media the location of a news conference. If you do, word might leak out that, say, a famous person is involved in the event. If somebody snitches, thousands of fans are virtually guaranteed to mob the scene and your news conference might never be held. And so with Allen Iverson visiting this teeming city of some 20-million people, similar precautions had to be taken. Media members who knew of his coming were not told where the day’s events were being held. Instead, they were asked to board a caravan of buses at a rendezvous point. The buses then furtively took them to wherever the events took place. Shanghai is a large city, and Allen Iverson is large among its inhabitants. One Reebok executive said today Iverson “is like a god here.” A Chinese journalist told us Iverson is bigger here than Yao Ming, the 7-5 center for the Houston Rockets. Ironically, Yao spent many of his formative years here in Shanghai. The love became apparent today when Iverson tipped off the Chinese portion of his “I am what I am” tour for Reebok. And it was no more palpable than during a visit to an orphanage, the Shanghai Children’s Home. For it is among children that Allen is often at his best. These kids had obviously prepared a long time for Iverson’s visit. Many of them, dressed in ceremonial clothing, sang and danced for him. They also presented him with a number of gifts exhibiting their own, artistic handiwork, a gesture that appeared to have touched Allen deeply. Later, there was Allen again, as he had in Tokyo, removing his watch and other jewelry so he could play basketball with the kids. Truly an amazing experience for many of those who were clearly Iverson fans, demonstrated by their various wrist and armbands which were very much a la Allen. Iverson took the stage at a Shanghai theatre at the day’s first event, greeted by wild applause from the crowd and a throng of well over 100 media members. Helped by a translator, Allen answered questions, then graciously participated in a number of ceremonial events. One that was particularly touching for the Chinese was seeing Allen imprint is last name in Chinese using a stamp similar to ones used by this country’s ancient emperors. Then, media members were led into an adjacent room in much smaller groups. Iverson patiently answered more questions for about the next hour and honestly, these questions were more incisive then those he had fielded in Japan. Tomorrow, Allen and Yao in an outdoor event that’s sure to draw quite a crowd. The media? They’ll all be arriving by bus.
Allen Iverson shoes off one of his signature shoes at an event in China. Iverson faces the excited crowd.

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