Excerpts from Hoop Dreams
by Al Young
A. Magazine February/March 1996
Headlines called them "clever," "peppery," and "shifty." One newspaper described them as a "group of tiny Oriental rugcutters." Of their playing, another paper enthused, "The Chinks flashed a snappy and deceptive passing attack."
"We weren't in town long enough to protest what was written about us," recalls Chauncey Yip, 77, a member of the Hong Wah Kues, an all-Chinese basketball team that toured the United States more than half a century ago.
The team was formed in 1939 by a white San Francisco accountant, William Porter, who decided to jump on the basketball barnstorming wagon and sponsor the first all-Chinese touring basketball team. After holding tryouts at a local YMCA, he hired a coach, paid the players $250 a month, provided transportation--a six-seat, 1939 Pontiac sedan--and sent them on their way.
The six-member team, made up of former San Francisco high school all-stars, […] during a three and a half month tour through the Midwest and Canada, […] played nearly 100 games. "Boy, that was rough," recalls George Lee, 78, the team's center and, at 5-foot-10, one of its biggest players. "Most of us were just out of high school, and we weren't going to college, so we thought we'd see the country."
It was Porter who named the team the Hong Wah Kues, "Brave Chinese Warriors." Mostly playing local all-star teams, the Kues won about 75 percent of their games, dazzling opponents with their speed, ballhandling, and shooting skills. "We were always the underdog, going against guys [who were] 6-4, 6-5 every night," says Lee, whose playing name was Lee Bo Chin. "The crowd loved us, because out in the Midwest, they didn't see too many Chinese."