Thursday, December 15, 2016

Souvenir NBA merchandise and the Politics of being a Sports Homer #30HGtees

People arrive at their favorite teams through all sorts of ways, usually via their favorite player. Some find connection through their first piece of team sportswear, building affinity through NBA Fantasy, Video Games or a celebrity supporter. It could be boarding the bandwagon of the day.
Being from Australia, I didn't have a regional connection to an NBA team. No automatic link. My brothers and I were regularly given sporting gifts by family visiting from and travelling to the States. As kids, we got shirts and sweaters emblazoned with Colleges like Duke and Georgetown plus an assortment of teams from the 4 Major Sports.

I still recall the first moment I noticed the depth of meaning in repping a team. I was a teenager traveling with family to Disney World. As we queued for a ride, I witnessed two families bonding over their native Denver, a passer-by flagged for his 'Broncos' sweater. It only dawned on me then that Team Colors signified more than a love for the game, it reflected identity. Not only what one valued but importantly where they were from. Who they saw themselves as.

For Americans this may seem intrinsic but for a distant fan of the game it was something I grew to understand. It wasn't just about liking a logo, color scheme or having a favorite player. Fans of "The World Game" [soccer] may be able to relate, being wedded to a team through no initial connection but later forged through years of sentiment and support. What might have begun as a fashion choice becoming a defining characteristic.

ESPN staff writers Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz light-heartedly discuss the politics of wearing team branded clothing
'The Lowe Post': Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN (11/18/16)
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: (40m) I never feel comfortable wearing the Milwaukee Bucks shirt I have even though I like it a lot...
ZACH LOWE: Loosen up, loosen up
ARNOVITZ: Can I loosen up? The threshold I make is if its a real throwbacky thing where it kinda ventures into design more than team loyalty. I have this old San Diego Clippers thing that's kinda good looking, like that I'll wear sometimes. Cuz to me it doesn't have the current city in it. I actually have a Sonics sweatshirt that I wear to the pool and that I'm allowed to wear obviously and its not expression of loyalty to the Thunder or anything. It's just a great Sonics sweatshirt I've had since college
LOWE: But I also think it can give you a fun human interaction with strangers so I'll give you an example
ARNOVITZ: I don't want that. I don't want to interact with strangers. It's terrifying.
LOWE: I forgot how misanthropic you are... I have a Milwaukee Bucks shirt and on the back it says #34 Greek Freak and it has like Greek Style lettering kind of. They look like the lettering of every Greek Restaurant you go to...
Giannis Antetokounmpo "Greek Freak" promo shirt
I share Zach's sentiment about the value of bonding through Sports. It was a large driver for embarking on this 30 Home Games mission, an avenue to connect with Cities and locals to enrich my travels. Rather than team loyalty, I wear my shirts as a bridge to connect with people and express my passion
ZACH LOWE: And I'm sitting in this lounge in my apartment complex where you like work and stuff. And this kid, probably 11 years old comes up to me. Sees this shirt and said "Where'd you get that shirt?". I was in Milwaukee so I got this shirt. And he said "I'm Greek and he's my favorite player now and we got League Pass at my house and we watch the Bucks every night. I'd really love to get that shirt". You know what kid, I'll give you this shirt. So I go home, wash it and give the kid the shirt. I'd worn it once, I'd just gotten back from Milwaukee.
Now he and I are buddies. I see him around the neighborhood all the time. He's always talking NBA with me and he wears the shirt. It makes me very happy. I feel like a good person

KEVIN ARNOVITZ: You know what? You've sold me. In a moment in history where Globalism and everybody is turning inwards. Where Globalism is a bad word, I'm going to now wear this stuff to forge relationships and moments with people who are unlike me... 
My Brothers and I had our teams when we began following the NBA in the 90's. We don't support the same teams we began with but I'm sure they have fond memories cheering the "Boom Baby" Pacers and the Stockton & Malone era. I remain nostalgic for the "Clutch City" Rockets, ghosts of our youth. We didn't have access to merchandise in those days, so our clothing never matched our fandom. We were limited in what we could represent prior to the internet and the International expansion of the NBA. Not to mention we were kids with little pocket money.
30HG collection of Souvenir Basketball Shirts
At my advanced age, I only update my wardrobe when I'm on the road. Through my travels I've collected over a dozen Basketball Souvenir shirts, commemorating my time spent in places from China to Latvia. I tend to be a "Homer" for places I've visited, celebrating the tragedy and triumph of my favorite destinations when I see them compete in International Competition. Heartily cheering for incoming internationals like Kristaps and Domantas as they enter the NBA.
Zach Lowe echoes this sentiment of supporting various teams as a larger expression of love for the game.
Sports Homer
ZACH LOWE: (38m 18s) I have clothes now from half the league's teams so if I'm out and I have a Nets hat on and a Timberwolves thing on, I feel like I'm Homer Simpson holding the NBA pennant. Just "Fan of basketball". I think that's OK.
I'm having to navigate these allegiances as I build connections and experiences with Teams and Cities on my quest to visit all 30 NBA Teams. So far I've been a lucky charm as I've provided timely wins for all 6 of the Home Games attended. Building a nice collection of Travel merch to match the passport stamps and memories made.

Souvenir NBA merchandise and the Politics of being a Sports Homer #30HGtees
David Jacoby on "Homerism" and being a die-easy fan

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Retiring the @30HomeGames Instagram.

<< crossposted on the 'Loz in Translation' blog

I've owned a smartphone for just over 2+ years. In that period I've devoted a lot of my time finding content for my Instagram. It was a departure from my insistence on "living in the moment" when I was backpacking for years sans camera. I posted Daily, documenting my exploration of new places and subcultures using basketball references to bind the photos in theme.

If I was watching Contemporary Dance, I'd look for an audience member wearing fresh sneakers. If I was at a Comedy show, I'd spring into action if I heard a comic referencing basketball. I'd check out the latest Burger Pop-ups but I'd hunt for punters wearing Basketball jerseys.
The premium was on finding quirky perspectives, usually for things that were trending or topical. Whilst occasionally photos were straightforward basketball pics, I was excited by finding odd juxtapositions or clever visual puns in my daily life. I was on a constant scavenger hunt. What began as a way to remain focused on the 30HG Project when I wasn't abroad quickly turned into an obsession.

In the same way Jim Carrey became obsessed with the 'Number 23', I was in a craze trying to connect everything to Lebron James and Michael Jordan.

I'm retiring the home (Sydney) component of my Instagram. I'll be reserving updates for upcoming plans, resuming regular daily content for when I'm on the road. I enjoy how projects like this foster daily habits of exploring, searching for novelty and lived experience. The Content is a bonus. I'll still be checking out shows and new scenes, I'll just be experiencing it more fully as I won't be so preoccupied with capturing it now. Truth be told, my Camera Phone is broken. With no plans to replace it till I head Stateside for my "Texas Triangle" roadtrip.

30HG goes to USA
30HG goes to CHINA
I'm proud of what I experienced with the @30homeGames Instagram. Besides taking me abroad to the States, China and New Zealand, I also got to dive into my local culture. Checking out more Art shows, finding new spots and making new friends around Sydney. It made me more proactive in playing ball, joining clubs and seeking Hoops events. It even motivated me to run my own Basketball tourney. The energy reminiscent of when I started 'Loz in Transit' during my Yes Man year of 2010.

To commemorate my 2+ years capturing and living "Basketball is Life", I present a mixtape of some of my favorite photo sets:
30HG at the GAME
30HG at ????
- '30 Home Games' on Instagram: Basketball Souvenirs, Streetball and Hoops around the world
- Jacques Henri Lartigue: Why I'm getting a camera

Monday, August 22, 2016

Texas Triangle 2016: NBA Roadtrip wishlist

TEXAS TRIANGLE: San Antonio | (Austin) | Dallas | Houston
The '30 Home Games' project began in Lithuania during a year long EuroTrip, it continued several years later when I backpacked for 6 months around South America. During those trips I had found a basketball experience in each country visited, what began organically turned into a concerted effort. Seeking local leagues and connecting with locals through pickup games or just a shared love of the game.

With the ordinary constraints of a full-time job, my mission to watch all 30 NBA Tteams at their home venue was a tangible goal to work towards. Organising month-long regional itineraries around the states to ultimately visit all 29 (Staples Center hosts 2 LA teams) NBA cities. In 2015, I completed a short east coast roadtrip with friends, going to 3 arenas to watch games. I had my first NBA experience at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks kindly treating my running mates and I to pre-game access. We got to see the likes of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony warming up in an empty arena, a magical fan experience to tip-off my NBA adventure.

I'll be spending this November backpacking in America's Southwest which ticks off 3 more NBA teams in the "Texas triangle". As a bonus, the trip coincides with several notable events. Departing Sydney on my birthday, I'll be stateside to tip-off the NBA Season, and be witness to the presidential election and 'Dia de los Muertos' (Day of the Dead).

Happy Texas #30HGsouthwest
I was initially tossing up between a Texas trip or a Californian one. The common thread being that they were both Mexican border states. I was keen on having a Mexican experience to mark 'day of the dead' festivities. I eventually decided on Texas due to novelty, having never been there. I was also drawn to Austin, being the base for SXSW and 2 of my rolemodels in filmmakers Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez.

Austin, Texas
Anarchy Championship Wrestling
Inspire Pro Wrestling (Oct 29, Red Oak Ballroom)
Party World Rasslin'
Total Championship Wrestling (Oct 29, Nov 12. Killeen Army National Guard Armory)

Cap City Comedy Club
Carousel Lounge
- ColdTowne Theater
Esther's Follies
- The Hideout Theatre
- Moontower Comedy

Troublemaker Studios (Robert Rodriguez)
4900 Old Manor Rd, Austin,
TX 78723

Detour Film Production (Richard Linklater)
1901 E 51st St Austin,
TX 78723

- Filming locations for 'Boyhood' (2014)

I'll be visiting 3 NBA teams, a road trip famously dubbed the "Texas triangle". An ominous stretch for opponents as the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have been consistently great for several decades. All 3 having won a championship in the past 20 years, sharing 8 in total during that span. Houston were the first team I supported when I began watching the NBA as a teenager in the early 90's. Their most iconic player, Hakeem Olajuwon is my all-time favourite player. On my first solo backpacking adventure in 2011, the Dallas Mavericks won that year which holds a sentimental place in my heart. Whilst multiple Aussie Boomers have won CHIPs for the past few champions, the San Antonio Spurs' famously had Aron Baynes and arguably Australia's best international performer in Patty Mills.

Luckily during the early stages of the NBA season, the 3 Texas teams will be hosting teams featuring the full gamut of Australian players represented in the NBA. Whilst not quite marquee franchises, they're all up-and-coming teams I'm intrigued by: The Philadelphia 76ers (Ben Simmons, Coach Brett Brown), Milwaukee Bucks (Matthew Dellavedova, Thon Maker), Utah Jazz (Joe Ingles, Dante Exum) and Detroit Pistons (Aron Baynes). With Dallas (Andrew Bogut) and San Antonio (Patty Mills) rounding out the squads with Aussie players. I'm aiming for an itinerary that can accommodate these games marked below:
Tues Nov 1 - UTA at SAS
Sun Nov 6 - MIL at DAL
Fri Nov 11 - DET at SAS
Mon Nov 14 - PHI at HOU
Sat Nov 19 - UTA at HOU

Greetings from Dallas, Texas
American Airlines Center
2500 Victory Avenue,
Dallas, Texas 75201

Fri Oct 28 - Dallas
Fri Nov 4 - Portland
Sun Nov 6 - Milwaukee ----------
Fri Nov 18 - Memphis

Backdoor Comedy at the Doubletree Hotel
Dallas Comedy House

- Pro Wrestling Dallas (Nov 11 at St Jude Hall, Arlington Texas )
- Ring of Honor (Nov 3 at Arlington Convention Center)

Greetings from Houston, Texas

Toyota Center 
1510 Polk Street,
Houston, Texas 77002

Sun Oct 30 - Dallas
Sat Nov 12 - San Antonio
Mon Nov 14 - Philadelphia ----------
Thu Nov 17 - Portland
Sat Nov 19 - Utah ----------
Wed Nov 23 - Toronto

Reality of Wrestling (Nov12 at World Gym Arena)
Lone Star Championship Wrestling

Joke Joint Comedy Showcase
Miller Outdoor Theatre
The Music Box Theater
Rudyards British Pub
Station Theater
'Comedy Scene in Houston' Events Calendar

Greetings from San Antonio, Texas

AT&T Center 
1 AT&T Center Parkway,
San Antonio, Texas 78219

Sat Oct 29 - New Orleans
Sun Oct 30 - Miami
Tues Nov 1 - Utah ----------
Sat Nov 5 - LA Clippers
Wed Nov 9 - Houston
Fri Nov 11 - Detroit ----------
Mon Nov 14 - Miami
Mon Nov 21 - Dallas

- Blind Tiger Comedy Club
Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club
Rivercenter Comedy Club

- NWA: Branded Outlaw Wrestling
- Ring of Honor (Nov 4 at San Antonio Shrine Auditorium)
River City Wrestling (Nov 4 at Retama Park Horse Race Track)
- Texas All-Star Wrestling (Nov 13 at Traders Village)
Texas Wrestling Alliance (Nov 5 at Good Shepard Lutheran Gym)
- Warriors 4 Christ Wrestling

As I do at home and abroad, whether in Sydney or on my FIBA adventures, I'll be indulging my hobbies and exploring various subcultures which you can track on my Instagram page. I unfortunately haven't played much ball with locals on the past few Australasian trips around China and New Zealand. I'm hoping to get back into it when I visit Texas.

Destination list:
- 30 Home Games mission: Southwest Division map
- 30HG Destination Spotlight: Troublemaker Studios (Austin, Texas)
- Champagning and Campaigning in the NBA Cities: Western Conference edition
#30HGaustralasia Plans for 2016: 'Australian Boomers Farewell Series' in Melbourne and a Texas NBA Road trip

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#30HGaustralasia Plans for 2016: 'Australian Boomers Farewell Series' in Melbourne and a Texas NBA Road trip

Approaching the midpoint of 2016, I'd made no travel plans for the year. In an instant, I locked two Basketball trips this past month. The '30 Home Games' mission streamlines my decision-making. Once tournaments and events arise, I'm sprung into action. With momentum on my side and a hospitality job that allows me fleet of foot I've been able to capture the sense of light air I've had on long-form backpacking trips.

The Farewell Boomers' series came to my attention when I glanced a TV ad at work. Within a few days, I orchestrated time off and am making a return pilgrimage to send off the Aussie National Team. There is still uncertainty regarding the availability of NBA star Andrew Bogut, who sustained an injury in the NBA Finals series. On the other hand, It'll be good to see newly crowned Champ Matthew Dellavedova before he dons the colors of his new team, the Milwaukee Bucks.

Farewell Series: Boomers vs Pac-12 College All Stars
July 12 + 14 at Hisense Arena. Melbourne, Australia
Not being an avid follower of the College game, it'll be fun scouting rising talent that we may eventually see in the NBA. It was a privilege seeing now No.1 Draft pick Ben Simmons in front of his hometown as he toured Down Under with his LSU Tigers. Unbeknownst to me I actually witnessed 'Rookie of the Year', Karl-Anthony Towns as he represented his native Dominican Republic during FIBA Americas 2013. I didn't realise this until he entered the NBA 2 years later. Perhaps we might glimpse a similar gem amongst the Pac-12 College All Stars.

This Melbourne trip comes on the heels of buying return tickets to Houston in November for what I thought was my lone vacation for the year.

Going to California or Texas
- Toyota Center (Houston Rockets)
- American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks)
- AT&T Center (San Antonio Spurs)
Besides considering when Game days are, I usually don't do much planning or pre-booking to allow freedom of movement. The NBA schedule being typically released by early August. I originally had a choice between California or Texas for my trip. Whilst California offered more known non-basketball pursuits from Wrestling, Art Shows and Comedy. Texas was the exotic choice. A place I'd long been fascinated with and had yet to visit. Especially Austin, the homebase of two creative rolemodels Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. The latter's 'TroubleMaker Studios' being a dream destination for me to visit.

Another key leg of the journey, regardless of whether I chose Texas or California was spending November 1st in Mexico for 'Dia de los Muertos' (Day of the Dead). Due to time constraints, I'd be limited to a Mexican Border town a bus ride from Houston. I've been advised against this from some Mexican friends on the grounds of excitement value and risk. Having been to Caracas, Venezuela for FIBA Americas 2013 I'm no stranger to travel warnings. I took heed and eventually canceled my plans for AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia due to events on the ground.
What makes the Mexican excursion different is that I'm not there for basketball. '30 Home Games' has given me resolve in the past to forego initial trepidation. It gave me comfort during the hardship of navigating China and steeled me against the concern of visiting Venezuela. Both rewarding trips when said and done. The Mexican leg is still under ongoing advisement. Perhaps I just have to find a basketball related Carrot on a stick.

Basketball Destinations:
- Find photos and stories of my past Melbourne trips: #30HGaustralasia
- Champagning and Campaigning in the NBA Cities: Western Conference edition
- 30 Home Games mission: Southwest Division map
- 30HG Destination Spotlight: Troublemaker Studios (Austin, Texas)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Former LA Clippers teammates Spencer Hawes and JJ Redick share their favorite NBA Road Cities

Spencer Hawes returns as a guest on 'The Vertical podcast with JJ Redick', the first and only pod anchored by a current NBA player.
They briefly discuss their favourite Road Cities in the States.
Spencer Hawes joins The Vertical Podcast
JJ REDICK: (11m 20s) My favorite roadtrip when I was in Orlando was when we would hit the Pacific Northwest. We'd always go to Portland and Seattle, usually have between 4 and 5 days between the two cities. You'd be guaranteed to be in one of the two cities for 2 or 3 days. And they're two of my favorite cities in the US. And certainly Portland is one of my favorite cities to visit as a Road city.
What are some of your favorite Road Cities? Maybe the ones -- obviously New York, San Francisco -- those are my two favorites. What are some off the beaten path, some underrated road cities to you?
SPENCER HAWES: Obviously you gotta throw LA and New York. You can't really count those for obvious reasons. Obviously San Francisco is a terrific city. I'm really a fan of Toronto
REDICK: Its' cold.
HAWES: A lot of times when we go up there due to the schedule its in the dead of winter, you see kind of the worst side of the City when its 15° and snowing out but I got an opportunity to go up there during the lockout a few years ago. I believe it was during the fall and had an unbelievable experience so Toronto's definitely one of my favorites.
Where else would I throw in there. What's another one you like? Chicago?
REDICK: Chicago. Well Chicago is great. Good town. I'm gonna throw one in there and it's similar to Toronto in that the weather is always awful when ever we play there but I think its a world-class city: Minneapolis, Minnesota.
HAWES: Yeah (agreeing)
REDICK: Great restaurants, great music scene, great sports town. Also [Redick's wife] Chelsea, if you're listening to this please cover your ears but I also dated a girl from 2 years in College that was from Minneapolis so I got to spend some time up there in the summer and go to Twins games and go out on the lake. It's an awesome city!
The discussion brings up a predicament with my 30 Home Games mission. As the NBA season is on during winter, the Cities' may not as be as hospitable as they'd be if I visited during the summer months.
HAWES: I think that's like a lot of Midwestern cities. If you were a baseball player your experience would be completely different from that of playing in the NBA if that's your hometown because you experience baseball season, the summer, the lakes everything. All the best things the city has to offer.
REDICK: No question, being a [Twins' catcher] Joe Mauer or something like that. Your opinion of Minnesota is a little bit different rather than a guy who's been playing for the Timberwolves a couple of years and moves during the summer as soon as the season is over.
Both JJ and Spencer were teammates in Los Angeles, and their fondness for each other is evident on the pod. They touch on their time in China as their respective teams [Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers] faced off at the 2015 NBA Global Games. I was lucky to catch some of that action on the Shenzhen leg of the tour.
I highly recommend the Redick podcast. Its similar in vein to the insight Jalen Rose has provided with David Jacoby and Bill Simmons for ESPN but from a current player's perspective. Rose and Redick diverge in other ways too, Redick more likely to talk about current movies and TV shows especially with his connection to LA.

Spencer Hawes' pick: Toronto, Ontario
JJ Redick's pick: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Find Champagning and Campaigning posts here:
- NBA Cities: Eastern Conference
- NBA Cities: Western Conference
- Jalen's Black Guy City Power Rankings

Sunday, April 3, 2016

LozinTransit in 2015: American Roadtrip, FIBA Oceania and Asia

<<crossposted on the 'Loz in Translation' blog

Founded in Lithuania during EuroBasket 2011, I've been documenting my search for basketball experiences on my @30HomeGames project. It became an Instagram-focused pursuit when I got my first smartphone in 2014, each day capturing a moment through the lens of basketball. Whether its snapping basketball kicks on a bushwalk, a jersey at a foodie gathering or finding "hoops of the world". These daily scavenger hunts have made my adventures at home as novel as my adventures abroad, a premium placed on quirky and improbable intersections.

nba roadtrip, nba map, new york knicks
#30HomeGames in 2015: USA Roadtrip and being the Ultimate NBA fan
I started 2015 with a splash, spending 2 weeks on the US East Coast. The New York Knicks graciously hosted my friends and I at the "world famous" Madison Square Garden. An auspicious start for my mission to visit all 30 NBA Cities.

In 2011 and 2013 I quit work and went on extended trips, 13 and 6 months respectively. I knew this wouldn't be the case for 2015 but continuing my FIBA (International Basketball Federation) streak would be a solid consolation. During my EuroTrip I spent a month in Lithuania as they hosted the biennial European Basketball Championship. I made sure to attend the Americas equivalent in Venezuela during my 2013 South America Trip. For 2015 I had a choice between FIBA Asia and AfroBasket. I had sights on the African tourney in Tunisia but ultimately decided against it with uncertain developments in the area. Going to Changsha, China for FIBA Asia and adding nearby Wellington and Melbourne for FIBA Oceania rounded out a worthy mission for the year.

fiba asia, fiba oceania, lsu tour
Stash from Australia, New Zealand and China
Under the umbrella #30HGaustralasia, the itinerary for Oceania was:
Aug 15 - Melbourne, Australia. FIBA Oceania Game 1
Aug 18 - Wellington, New Zealand. FIBA Oceania Game 2
Aug 22 -  Melbourne, Australia. LSU Downunder Tour
Sep 23 to Oct 3 - Changsha, China. FIBA Asia
Oct 11 - Shenzhen, China. NBA Global Games

As with previous forays into FIBA action, watching games came with a learning curve. I endeavour to watch as many of the competing nations as possible, sourcing tickets through official channels. Regular games usually don't meet quarter capacity whilst the host nation plays to a packed house which often means having to brave the secondary market. With FIBA Asia in Changsha, there was little choice but to deal with secondary vendors. Rather than having booths by the stadium, tickets were sold at the nearby university. A stall was set up with all the tickets emanating from a lone backpack manned by a student-type, these were snapped up by enterprising locals who tried their luck reselling them. All transactions were cash in hand which makes one wonder where the money ultimately ended up. How much you paid for tickets fluctuated with demand and the whims or mercy of the vendor, a glimpse into the negotiable markets of China.

In some ways this helped. I paid most for tickets in the beginning when I was just getting my bearings and saved money progressively. I watched all 7 Gilas Pilipinas victories paying around 100-200 RMB (AU$20-$40) for the earlier, less coveted games. Come the Playoffs as Gilas matches were incorporated into double-headers with the China games, we were able to ask for tickets from the departing locals who only wanted to watch their national team play. We had to compete with savvy resellers doing the same. Newcomers invariably get taken advantage of so it helps to ask around and get a lay of the land as early as possible. The fun part about these trips are always the things you stumble on and the connections you make that can only happen by being on the ground and having your feelers out.

A photo posted by 30homegames (@30homegames) on

Whilst this proved successful for watching other games, I ultimately couldn't stomach paying the high price to see the host nation play. I departed Changsha altogether on the morning of the Philippines VS China grand final knowing it'd be futile trying to watch it live. Reports would later say that even Filipino coaching staff had trouble securing tickets for the game.

This proved the same for the NBA Global Games in Shenzhen between the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers. With tickets starting at a hefty AU$80 and ultimately selling out, I braced myself for an uphill battle. I was happy to observe the pandemonium in search for access but didn't want to risk any money by joining them, I witnessed every manner of bribery and trickery imaginable from eager travelers and locals desperate to watch the game.

Fenghuang, Zhangjiajie, Avatar Park
Vista views: Fenghuang and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Ticketing aside, for me these trips are shaped by the adventures outside of basketball. Without the benefit of a rolling start and the considerable language barrier, this mission was arguably my most challenging travel experience. As South China was less frequented by western travelers I didn't encounter many peers, on the other hand I was less concerned about falling prey to travel scams. Interestingly as China is densely populated and I'd unwittingly visited during the Golden Week holiday, I was never very far from hordes of Chinese locals who were commuting during their short annual window away from work. En route to my final basketball destination in Shenzhen, I spent a week traveling through Fenghuang (Ancient Phoenix town) and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (popularly inspiring James Cameron's 'Avatar'). Heavy rain and a severe dose of food poisoning put a damper on some of the days but it turned out to be some of the most scenic places I've ever visited.

The China trip gave me lessons and set expectations for AfroBasket and FIBA World Cup if I am to pursue them. Likewise for missions in general. At times it can feel more like a business trip, as previously these basketball trips were happy detours on a larger backpacking adventure I hadn't really noticed the process of it previously. Interestingly all my trips this year have been in the service of basketball, beginning with USA to Melbourne, New Zealand and China. I like traveling with a larger theme in mind, so its only fitting.
Its been a good year. My daily Instagram snapshots, whilst seemingly one-dimensional with its basketball theme offers a fair accounting of what I've been up to. No plans for 2016 but I've got my head up waiting for the next play.

Find other Basketball adventures here:
- Balancing Basketball and Travel in Lithuania (1 of 2)
- My time in Caracas, Venezuela for FIBA Americas 2013
- Hashtag Roadtrip: #30HGroadtrip