A Tibetan monk plays basketball on the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai, China. Some 300 million Chinese -- close to the population of the entire United States -- regularly play basketball.
(KEVIN FRAYER/Getty Images)
Call it "Long March" Madness. It sounds like the setup to a bad joke: What was born in the United States to a Canadian father, crossed the globe with YMCA missionaries, and was endorsed by Chairman Mao Zedong for its emphasis on communal hard work? But it's not a joke. It's essentially the history of basketball, which by most estimates is the most popular sport in… China.
In the coming week, upward of 25 million Americans will tune in to the conclusion of the NCAA basketball championship tournament, or March Madness as it's more popularly known. But this number pales in comparison to the 300 million Chinese -- that's nearly the population of the entire United States -- who regularly play basketball. Invented at the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA by Dr. James Naismith (the aforementioned Canadian), the sport arrived in China by the turn of the 20th century, transported by missionaries who...