The Language of Basketball and Power of Being Playful

There are few things that I’ve spent more time doing in my life than playing basketball. It’s a Hupfer thing and as I travel around I’ve found my love of hoops to be a great way to meet people, even when we can’t speak the same language.

This basketball court in Palawan, Philippines certainly didn’t suck

In the Philippines I used to play ball all the time and if there was any possible way to put a basketball court somewhere, even if that somewhere was on a palm tree in the middle of a remote island, someone would. I played in sand, on dirt, on top of mountains, inside of schools, on roofs of shopping malls, and right next to oceans.

One of my favorite things to do while in the Philippines was riding a motorbike around aimlessly on one of the islands when the sun was going down until I found a game I could join. It usually didn’t take long and before I knew it I’d be running up and down the court alongside 9 other Filipinos, playing the game we all love.

Just playing some hoops on a mountain filled with rice terraces, no big deal

I haven’t quite scoped out the basketball scene here in Haikou, but hopefully there are some games happening around my hood. Over the past few days I traveled around Hainan during the Chinese New Year holiday and while in Bo’oa I was walking back to town and saw some guys hooping it up.

As I walked up and gave the usual “Can I play with you guys?” signal of me pointing to myself and then pretending to shoot a ball towards the goal, they all shook their heads yes, said something in Chinese and before I knew it we were playing some two-on-two while I broke a good sweat in my jeans.

Basketball has always brought me closer to all different types of people, no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what language they speak. Once we’re all on the court, it’s all good and everyone understands each other. I really love it.

Being Playful

After playing basketball with the guys in Bo’ao my friend Emma who was traveling with me mentioned something interesting that stuck with me. She said “You’re so playful with the people you meet,” and I think that sense of playfulness is what allows me to have so many awesome adventures while traveling. It’s also helped me out in other ways (in work, relationships, etc.), but having a playful attitude while meeting new people, especially new people who are really different from me, seems to make life much better.

Obviously playing basketball with a random group of strangers is a good example of this, but so is singing along with the 7 year-old son of the woman who was cooking our street food last night. It made everyone feel comfortable with each other, allowed us all to drop our guard a bit, and helped us realize that even though we’re very different from each other, there are still many things about us that are the same.

Stay playful my friends, I know I will.

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