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Ebaby! Teachers Win NBA Championship with Heat

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

juwanMost of the discussion today about last night’s NBA Finals victory for Miami is about LeBron James. It makes sense. He’s their most famous player, and this is his first championship. The Heat’s other star, Dwayne Wade, has won before.

But this is also the first championship for two very well-respected players who have helped us teach English. Shane Battier, one of the smartest players in the league, came to Miami this year. When he played for the Rockets, he taught our members the term “buzzer beater.”

Shane didn’t hit any buzzer beaters in the finals that I recall, but he made plenty of other shots. He averaged more than 11 points per game in the Finals, his best performance of the Playoffs.

One well-known Heat player has waited much longer than LeBron for a championship. Twice as long, in fact. Juwan Howard–who just finished his 18th NBA season–won his first title last night as well. It must have been especially sweet for him since he narrowly missed the NCAA title twice in his college days.

We talked with him about his time with the Fab Five and the Big Three when the Heat was in Portland last year.

It’s hard to think of two players who deserve a championship more than Shane and Juwan, so we would like to congratulate them and their teammates, and thank them again for helping us help the world learn basketball slang.

Image: Juwan celebrates with LeBron in the Heat locker room last night.

Ebaby! in the Media: Dime Magazine, Pitchfork and More

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

English, baby! in Dime Magazine
Dime Magazine, a New York-based basketball magazine that publishes in the US and China, features a full-page story on our basketball English lessons starring NBA players in its September edition. They let me pick the best quotes from the videos for the story. Click on the image to read it and download the whole issue here.

Our mission to help the world learn English from athletes and entertainers has garnered a lot of media attention since the last press round-up on this blog. Our lessons with world-famous DJ Girl Talk were covered by the Vatican of indie music, Pitchfork, as well as Prefix Magazine, Melophobe, The Miami New Times and The Music-RX. Our lessons with hip-hop legends Bone Thugs-n-Harmony got us back on the pages of XXL Magazine and HipHop DX.

Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia let us go through his suitcase before a road game for a fashion English lesson, and our pal Sekou Smith of NBA.com’s Hang Time blog gave us some love (link disabled due to lockout) as did the always kind Ball In Europe, and even the Hawks official site, which also covered our lesson with All-Star Al Horford (again, lockout = 404).

With our Portland Timbers now in the MLS, we’ve been focusing a lot more on soccer this season. A lesson with fan-favorite Gambian defender Futty Danso won the heart of Timbers blog, Dropping Timber. Lessons with French star Aurelien Collin landed us on soccer blog No Short Corners and Sporting Kansas City’s official Twitter feed.

Finally, Lindsay Pulsipher, an actress from one of my favorite TV shows, True Blood, recently appeared on Ebaby! and the Truebies took notice on sites such as True-Blood.net and TrueBlood-Online.com. The interview even made the local “Stardar Report” of Byron Beck. It’s nice to be popular.

Yi Jianlian on Learning English

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

One of the most watched NBA games ever took place in November of 2007. Why would a game near the beginning of the season be watched by so many people? Most of the fans watching were in China. It was the first time Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets played against young star Yi Jianlian and the team that drafted him, the Milwaukee Bucks. More than 200 million people tuned in to what came to be known as the “Chinese Super Bowl.”

Though in the US, Yi’s fame is nowhere near that of Yao’s, he is a superstar in China and he’s still new to the NBA. His game has to improve if he’s going to take over where Yao leaves off, but his English is coming along nicely. When he first arrived in the US, he used an interpreter and spoke little English. But when we approached him–in English–for an interview at a recent Washington Wizards media session, he didn’t hesitate and confidently agreed. The result is our latest Celebrity English Lesson in which Yi teaches the phrase “put the ball on the floor.”

One thing we cut from this video is a part where I asked Yi if there were any basketball terms he had a hard time with when he first came here. The answer surprised me. He said he didn’t know what was meant by “cut to the basket.” Of course, this phrase means to run quickly toward the basket so that your teammate can pass you the ball and you can score. It’s not something I think of basketball slang exactly, so Yi’s comment may help us find more good basketball idioms we’ve been overlooking.

Fashion English Lesson with Zaza Pachulia

Friday, March 25th, 2011

One of the best parts of watching NBA games on TV is seeing the shot of the players walking into the arena. They usually have on some fancy clothes and headphones and are walking with a lot of attitude. Even through they change into their warm ups and uniforms quickly, players like to really dress up to go to games.

In a recent poll of NBA players by Sports Illustrated, Zaza Pachulia ranked among the most fashionable players in the league. The 7-foot Atlanta Hawks center, who originally hails from the Eastern European nation of Georgia, has good taste in general. He owns a very cool-looking bar in Atlanta called Buckhead Bottle Bar.

So since our Celebrity English Lesson series has covered a lot of basketball slang, we figured why not have Zaza teach an English lesson about fashion language? We met with him at his hotel room in Portland the afternoon before a game. He showed us what he planned to wear that night and talked about what it means to sport something. Since he didn’t know we would be coming up to his room when he picked out the outfit, we get a really authentic look into his suitcase!

Zaza also want to share some more advanced fashion slang with the English, baby! members, so he talked about the term “swag,” which he says is very popular in Atlanta. It’s amazing how much swag Zaza has while still being a really friendly, down-to-Earth guy.

Grangerman Helps World Learn English

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Danny Granger is the latest NBA All-Star to help English, baby! share basketball slang with English learners all over the world. We met with him after an Indiana Pacers practice. Since the team played a couple of preseason games in China, I asked him about that and he said the fans were rowdy. I grew up in New Mexico where Danny went to college for 2 years and I saw him play there. The arena at the University of New Mexico is called the Pit and gets very loud. So if he says basketball games in China are rowdy, he is not joking around.

I also enjoyed watching Danny play in the World Championships last summer. It’s always interesting to see someone who is usually the star of his team play a more supporting role. That’s why the topic of Danny’s lesson is the difference between being a “role player” and a “franchise player.”

As he explains, a role player on a basketball team is someone who comes into the game for a limited period of time to do a specific thing such as block shots or play defense. But there’s another kind of role playing I thought Danny might be into. You see, Danny loves superheroes and he has built a Batcave into his house. What is a Batcave? Well, it’s where Batman hangs out and hides his cars. I can’t find a picture of Danny’s Batcave, but here is a good drawing of Batman’s by Paul Rivoche and you can see some quotes from Danny describing it on Ball Don’t Lie.

Image of Grangerman via Weekly World News.

Celebrity English Lessons Get International Attention

Friday, February 11th, 2011

A major Lithuanian newspaper, lrytas.lt, recently created a news story out of our English lesson with Lithuanian NBA star, Žydrūnas Ilgauskas. In the Google translation, you can see how the author pulled quotes from our interview and put them together in the newspaper style. The story has been getting good traffic–it has more than 70 comments.

The Celebrity English Lessons we feature periodically on English, baby! have gotten lots of media attention since the last time we posted an update like this (though we have been posting some as we go, like the various places that picked up our Sheryl Crow lesson).

An Australia-based basketball site, A Stern Warning, also covered our Ilguaskas lesson, as well our English lessons with Carmelo Anthony and Rip Hamilton. Cleveland.com, the website for the daily newspaper there, The Plain Dealer, picked up that pair of NBA lessons too and thetruthsports.com really got a kick out of our discussion with Carmelo about his nickname in China. Denver Stiffs, a local Nuggets blog, gave it some love as well.

XXL, the leading hip-hop magazine, posted our English lesson with Tech N9ne, as did The Boom Box, who also included E-40’s Ebaby! lesson.

Finally, if you’re going to interview Weird Al, you’d better hope it gets a friendly post from yankovic.org. Fortunately, ours did.

I’m sure we’ve missed some coverage of our lessons, so if you notice any we haven’t posted here, please leave a comment. Feel free to direct us to sites you like to read that might interested in posting our English lesson videos as well!

Talking Speed Slang with Rip Hamilton

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

You may or may not know that Tracy McGrady is huge in China. The anticipation of having the one-time leading scorer of the NBA on the same Rockets team as Yao Ming really excited the fans there. The dream never came to fruition due to injuries, but McGrady remains such a fan favorite that he was almost voted into the All Star game last year despite not having played that season due to injury.

Now McGrady plays for the Detroit Pistons, so we attended their practice planning to talk to him for our Celebrity English Lessons series. But he was unavailable. Who else on the team would have an international angle to discuss?

Luckily, the team’s PR staff suggested Richard “Rip” Hamilton because he had just been to China. I’m really glad we got to talk to him. He got excited as soon as we started talking about China and it seems like he had a really good experience there. He also did a great job teaching the terms “coast to coast” and “run the floor”.

At first, I didn’t recognize the NBA Champion and three-time All-Star without his famous protective mask. Somehow, the mask makes him look a little scary, so I was pleasantly surprised when he was so friendly and eager to talk to us. I suppose the intimidation factor is a bonus for him on the court. You know, in addition to avoiding a repeat of the facial injuries he suffered in the past.

Image: Rip guarding T-Mac before they were teammates. From Reuters.

Basketball Star Carmelo Anthony Teaches Slang

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Carmelo Anthony’s nickname is Melo for obvious reasons. But it works on two levels because he’s famously mellow and easy going. You can see it when you watch him play in the NBA–he doesn’t ever seem to lose his cool and it enables him to do things like make game winning shots with four seconds left.

Sure enough, when we attended a recent Denver Nuggets to talk to Melo about Amazing, the upcoming movie he shot in China last summer, and to add him to our growing list of Celebrity English teachers, he lived up to the name. As I mention in the video, the guy has a lot going on, but seemed really calm and focused stretching and running defensive sets and then laid-back and focused on us when we started talking to him for this English lesson on the slang phrase, “mellow out”.

It’s really interesting to hear that Carmelo doesn’t like his Chinese nickname, Tian Gua (甜瓜), which means “sweet melon.” One commenter on the lesson explains that it came from “his sweet smile, lovely babyface and polite behaviors.” All good ways of gaining fans in China, but not necessarily intimidating to opponents, I guess.

"The Machine" Helps Lakers to 2010 NBA Championship

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Last night the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics to win their second NBA Championship in a row. It was also the second for Sasha Vujacic, a point guard from Slovenia who was one of the first NBA players to appear in English, baby!’s celebrity English lessons. He and Kobe Bryant are good friends and they did a lot of celebrating after the victory (as you can see in the photo).

Sasha had a bit of a tough year with some injuries, but in the last few seconds of last night’s game, he made two free throws to secure the victory. Bu could he ever really have missed? He is of course, “The Machine.” Here’s the English, baby! lesson in which he explains the meaning of his nickname.

After the game, lots of reporters wanted to talk to Sasha about the free throws. This article has a video that shows his post game interview. It sounds like he will enjoy his summer!

English Lesson at the Bowling Alley with Jared Dudley

Friday, May 7th, 2010


The Phoenix Suns were here in Portland to play against the Trailblazers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. I had approached some of them about doing celebrity English lessons for English, baby!, but hadn’t heard back. I figured they were probably too busy staying focused.

But then one of my friends posted on facebook that the Suns were hanging out at Grand Central Bowl. This was very exciting news because it’s just across the river from our office and we know it’s OK to film there–we shot some scenes for the beginning and end of our Winter Olympic videos there.

Everyone was gone for the day from the office, so I sent a taxi for Devan at her house. Normally she just acts in our lessons, but she was the only person available to hold the camera! On the way over to Grand Central, I made a plan to have Channing Frye introduce me to Steve Nash so I could interview him. I came up with some questions.

The facebook post made it seem like the whole team was at the bowling alley. I pictured them bowling against each other in small teams. But when we arrived, we found there were only a few players, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, and Jared Dudley watching the NBA Playoffs on TV.

Quickly, I had to come up with new questions for each. After gathering some courage, I walked up to Amar’e, explained who I was, and asked if he’d like to do an interview. He was nice as he declined, saying, “Nah, I’m good.” Jared overheard me explaining to Amar’e that English, baby! gets a lot of traffic in China.

“How much traffic do you have in China?” Jared asked.

I told him and gave him my card.

“I’ll hit you up sometime,” he said.

“Oh come on, let’s do an interview right now.” I replied.

He agreed. But as we began to set up, I realized that in my hurry to get to the bowling alley to catch the Suns, I forgot to put a tape in the camera! Jared said he was going to hang out and watch the rest of the game (Milwaukee was playing Atlanta). So we ran back to the office and came back. He was still there, and still happy to be interviewed, thank goodness! What a good guy. And what a good interview too. He’s a natural on camera. No wonder he makes daily videos and posts them to his twitter account. He even let Devan get a picture with him, which you see above. Without further ado, the interview video. You can see the whole lesson here.