Making the Leap

It was late in the morning of July 1, 1999, when China's tallest soldier received an unexpected phone call from the U.S. Over the crackly connection, Lieut. Wang Zhizhi suddenly found himself listening to a live broadcast of the National Basketball Association draft. "With the 36th pick," the disembodied voice intoned, "the Dallas Mavericks select Wang Zee-zee of the People's Republic of China." Wang understood very little English—and even his own name (which should be pronounced Wahng Jer-jer) was verbally mangled—but the 2.16-m center heard the burst of applause in the background and knew that he had made history. When the...

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