By Ursula Liang
Much more than an urban pastime, 9-Man is a competitive Chinese-American sport with roots that trace back to the Toisan* region of Guangdong province. In North America, the game was a way for Chinese workers to escape the drudgery of menial labor during an era of extreme discrimination. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 -- the first U.S. immigration law targeting a single ethnic group -- constrained the formation of Chinese families, effectively creating Chinatown "bachelor societies" where men outnumbered women by huge ratios. In the 1930’s, a traveling 9-Man tournament emerged, and helped create fraternity within a community plagued by unjust stereotypes of Asian masculinity.
Today, 9-Man provides a lasting connection to culture and community pride for men that know a different, more integrated America. Following several teams over the course of one season, 9-MAN captures the spirit of 9-Man as teams prepare for battle on gritty asphalt streets and oil-spotted Chinatown parking lots throughout North America and fight for the championship in Boston. While the elders question how to pass the torch, the next generation struggles with maintaining tradition in gentrified urban centers while the community becomes increasingly multi-ethnic. What does the future hold for this streetball battle?