The village basketball games that are a national obsession in China

TAIPAN, China — It’s game day in this remote village in southwestern China, and the atmosphere is electric.

Before thousands of fans on an outdoor court tucked in the rugged hills of Guizhou province — and with millions more watching online — teams from across China are vying to become champions of the “CunBA,” a grassroots version of the National Basketball Association whose name is a play on the Chinese word “cun,” which means “village.”

Basketball is hugely popular in China, where the NBA continues to broadcast games despite past political controversies. China also has its own professional men’s league, the Chinese Basketball Association, although recent allegations of corruption and match-fixing have put off many fans.

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Some see a purer version of the sport in the CunBA, which has become something of a national obsession, with Taipan proclaiming itself the capital. Games are livestreamed on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, where they are viewed by millions of fans who may never have heard of this tiny village in one of the country’s poorest provinces.

They have even drawn NBA stars such as Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, who visited Taipan last July.

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