It’s the sort of insurance policy that even the most experienced underwriter would shudder to price: insuring against injury one of the world’s most famous basketball player as he rides a motorbike on China’s chaotic roads. But as it turned out, the major risk was not of crashing, but rather of falling foul of the traffic cops.
It was unclear if the Shanghai police knew who James Harden was when they pulled him over for violating traffic regulations while riding a rented electric moped this month. The NBA scoring champ’s exact infringement wasn’t made clear, but it was reported that Harden had his moped confiscated after the incident.
He was riding around Shanghai as part of a three-city promotional tour arranged by Adidas. The video of Harden being stopped by traffic police quickly went viral, sparking a flurry of sarcastic responses from Chinese and American fans.
“Elite NBA defenders cannot stop Harden, but he is no match for the Shanghai police,” joked one fan on weibo.
Some picked up on an inside joke among basketball fans that Harden’s signature stepback move looks a lot like ‘travelling’ – a rule violation where a player ‘travels’ more than two steps without dribbling the ball.
“James Harden has finally been called out for a travel,” quipped one Reddit user.
“NBA refs should learn from these policemen,” mused another.
Before arriving in Shanghai, Harden had visited Beijing to meet his fans and he also attended an event in Guangzhou. Harden mingled with Chinese supporters, signed autographs, and showcased his skills in front of a large audience. During his Beijing visit, he also donned a traditional Peking opera outfit and was filmed doing his signature move: the ‘stepback three’.
Harden, who was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2018, is very popular in China. Aside from being one of the NBA’s most exciting basketballers, he also plays for the Houston Rockets, the same team that Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming played for. The Rockets remain a huge franchise in China.
His China tour was notable for another reason: Harden skipped this year’s NBA Awards ceremony to cross the Pacific, even though he was also a candidate for this year’s MVP award. Evidently he viewed China as a greater priority and it was certainly a decision that appealed to his Chinese fans. (He was not named MVP this year, as Giannis Antetokoumpo from the Milwaukee Bucks took home top honours.)
China is the largest international market for the NBA, with its NBA China unit worth over $4 billion in 2017, reports Forbes.
With the stakes so high many local fans reckon a chauffeur-driven car should be Harden’s preferred mode of transport on his next visit to the country.
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