Former Brigham Young University basketball player Jimmer Fredette was the star of the 2011 NCAA tournament and now, six years later, he’s the star of the Shanghai Sharks in China. ESPN reporter Tom Farrey traveled across the world to profile Fredette, or as the Chinese call him “Jimo Dashen” or “the Lonely Master” – for an ESPN.com piece and an Outside the Lines special airing Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.
In order to understand what Fredette means to the Chinese Basketball Association, Farrey and producer Simon Baumgart immersed themselves in the Chinese culture.
“We all have these perceptions of what China is and who the people are but you really can’t get a true sense of that unless you are on the ground and getting to know people,” said Farrey. “We really wanted to know why the culture was responding so enthusiastically to Jimmer. Once we did the research we realized that he’s special to the fans because he is the league’s leading scorer and has turned around the Shanghai team, but it’s more than that. It’s about him embracing the culture, its food, its people. It’s him taking the subway around the city, exploring and showing respect for the fans. It’s him sticking around to sign autographs, being very gracious and not just treating this experience as an opportunity to make a lot of money in four months. As one fan told us on the street, he’s like a Chinese man, he’s like us.”
In the Chinese culture humility is an honorable trait and one that Fredette possesses, according to Farrey who described him as a very humble and family-oriented man. So it is obvious why the people of China have embraced him both on and off the court.
But despite Fredette’s stardom in China, Farrey and Baumgart had to find a way to make this story appeal to Americans who have forgotten about the former college star.
“Our challenge was to make relevant this player who was quite a sensation a few years ago but that people had forgotten about and to take them to China to show them his place within both the culture and the basketball culture there.”
They learned that Fredette and other American players are vital to the Chinese Basketball Association. They bring a new energy and a creative type of play to the game that is still developing in China as the league has only been around since the mid-1990’s.
“Fredette is doing his thing now as league MVP at a very interesting time in the evolution of Chinese basketball. It’s a culture that likes the game and really wants to get better at it and Jimmer through his creative play, his scoring and simply his size (at just 6-feet, 2 inches) has sparked the imagination of the people in China in ways that maybe even Stephon Marbury has not,” Farrey said.