The NBA offseason is jam-packed with free-agency madness, trade rumors, vacation Instagrams, and, for the past dozen or so summers, lucrative tours of Asia by the league’s elite. These excursions bring the NBA’s best to a rising Asian market that’s teeming with basketball-loving fans who are eager to see their favorite players up close and personal.
Typically, the touring All-Stars will do some sightseeing, show off some dunks (or, in Klay Thompson’s case, attempt and fail to), teach a few seminars for kids, and answer generic press conference questions in English. I’d imagine it’s quite fun. Asia tours require players to flex their skills as fun, friendly celebrities more than as pro athletes.
And with the world ever digitally connected, even if you aren’t actually at a parade for LeBron in Guangzhou or in a crowd in Beijing taking a selfie with KD, you can experience their overseas shenanigans by watching them on your phone. When the rumor mill is slow, you need the little fix that watching #ChinaKlay living his best life at a Chinese club can give you.
This summer has seen a boom in NBA-to-Asia trips, with no fewer than a half-dozen players making the cross-hemisphere promotional journey. Here, in descending order, we rank the six best Asia trips in order of most boring to most fun.
6. Jeremy Lin
Countries Visited: Taiwan, China
They’re here for Jeremy Lin, folks.
Five years have gone by since his stint with the Knicks and Linsanity has fizzled to a distant, albeit sweet, memory. While his questionable, cringeworthy hairstyles were more memorable in 2016–17 than his injury-riddled season, Lin is still a bona fide star in China and Taiwan. And with good reason. As the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA, Lin has been a role model for many in the states and abroad.
In the motherland, Lin did a few promotional events for Adidas, hosted a celebrity charity basketball game, coached with Nets teammate Caris LeVert, and spent a little bit of time promoting his, uh, perfume and cologne collection.
5. Kevin Durant
Country Visited: India
On Thursday, Kevin Durant arrived in New Delhi, India.
A tight smile, a wave or two, a few low fives. This is looking to be a very calm and efficient trip for the very calm and efficient Durant. He’ll be coaching prospects at the NBA Academy India, hosting a clinic, teaching the world’s largest basketball lesson (?!), and donating two basketball courts to the Ramjas School on behalf of his foundation. Plus, KD’s actually the first NBA player to go to the NBA Academy India. That’s gotta count for something.
Maybe I’m being too quick to judge, but I’m guessing the most amusing part of #DurantInIndia will be the tweets KD will fire off if he gets bored during his downtime.
Wait! An update: Kevin is inaugurating the basketball court … in style!
Oh. OK. Never mind.
4. Kyrie Irving
Countries Visited: Japan, Taiwan, China
Stateside, Kyrie rumors abound. While we’re busy firing up the trade machine and discussing where he will/should end up, Kyrie has been busy on his first Nike Asia tour, promoting his shoes and getting his hand engulfed by Yao Ming’s. He’s chilled with Taiwanese celebrities and trained with the U18 China team, as well as making minute-long check-in videos and hanging out in a place called the Kyrie House. (You can see it all on his perfectly curated Instagram feed.)
His Insta comment sections are filling up with snake emoji, various iterations of "please stay," and pleas for him to come to Minnesota, San Antonio, New York (cosign), Boston, etc., but we have yet to hear a peep from him regarding his future.
3. Dwyane Wade
Country Visited: China
According to his Instagram, Wade is having a great summer bopping from Valentino shows …
… to yachts off the coast of Portofino …
… and then to Shanghai to promote Way of Wade, his line with Li-Ning, a Chinese sportswear company.
Wade is most definitely not having a better time in China than he was on vacation with his wife Gabrielle Union and their friends. But he’s making the best of it by making his tour more than just about promoting his brand. He proclaimed that fellow travelers Udonis Haslem, Terrence Ross, and Glenn Robinson, who have all signed with Way of Wade, are with him in China so that they can "build their own personal brands." Wade even brought Tubuka Evans, a young shoe designer from Chicago, to observe the designing process. Cute.
2. Klay Thompson
Country Visited: China
Even before #ChinaKlay was a twinkle in our eye, Klay was already pretty lovable.
But #ChinaKlay is next level.
He landed in China fresh off of winning a championship and inking a 10-year, $80 million extension with Chinese shoe company Anta. (It’s a good time to be Klay Thompson.) While there, he turned every activity — eating liquid-nitrogen-frozen treats, arm wrestling a fan, learning a dance, riding a bike — into special, endearing #ChinaKlay moments. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, with just the right amount of goofiness to make everything seem fun as hell.
Look at that. Pure joy. I won’t harp on his endearing playfulness, as fellow Klaytheist Paolo Uggetti has already penned an ode to #ChinaKlay. I’m just going to say that he definitely would have been no. 1 if it wasn’t for …
1. Steph Curry
Countries Visited: China, South Korea
Of course, in Chengdu, when Steph found an opportunity to chide Klay a bit, he ran with it.
It was golden.
That’s not all, though. Steph, too, is having a good time in China. With younger brother Seth, Steph practiced tai chi with such intense concentration that you can’t help but think he is actually in touch with his life energy:
Then, in Seoul, his wife, Ayesha, came through with a sweet assist:
And Steph personally helped a giddy fan put on a pair of his signature shoes after dramatically flinging a pair of LeBrons off the court.
Any player can give a fan a pair of his autographed shoes, but only Steph would personally take off the previous pair, dramatically throw them off to the side, and replace them with a pair of his own — and then promptly sign them with the fan’s foot on his knee.
And to top it all off, Steph and Seth will tape a segment for Infinite Challenge, one of South Korea’s most popular variety TV shows. The show has previously hosted globally renowned athletes such as Usain Bolt and Thierry Henry, and the panel of eccentric hosts were absolutely beside themselves (save one) to find out that Steph was coming. Now every grandmother in Korea will be enamored with Curry’s charisma.
Sorry, #ChinaKlay. Love you, miss you, but Steph really can do all things.