NBA stars visit China on promotional tours every summer but it seems no one has ever tasted the culture as deeply as Dwyane Wade.
Invited by Chinese sports brand Li-Ning, his personal sponsor, Wade kicked off the Beijing leg of his tour on Sunday morning in a way he never expected – being served traditional Beijing snacks, Jiaoquan'er and douzhi'er, for breakfast upon his arrival at the city's tourism spot Shichahai.
Douzhi'er, fermented bean juice, is among the most traditional and controversial local drinks favored by older Beijingers for its health benefits as well as aftertaste of bean fragrance, while usually turned down by visitors for its stinky odor.
The Miami Heat's All Star guard has overcome numerous challenges to shine on court during his 12-year NBA career but this time surrendered in front of the sour drink.
After taking a smell at the bowl, he asked a fan to drink the douzhi'er for him and then took a couple of bites of Jiaoquan'er, a fried ring of dough, and the Chicago-native found the crispy snack tasted familiar.
"It was good. It was like the dookie cookies we had when we were kids," Wade said with a grin after a fan-appreciation activity on Sunday afternoon.
The 12-day tour, which began in in Shanghai on Thursday, was Wade's second trip to China after signing an endorsement deal reportedly worth $100 million over 10 years with Li-Ning in 2012.
Trying to "experience new things" as he said on his personal account on social platform Fanstang, Wade and his entourage took the bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing instead of a scheduled flight on Saturday.
The three-time NBA champion posted footage of him and his actress wife Gabrielle Union exploring the railway station in Shanghai and enjoying the ride on his account, which later attracted many likes for his down-to-earth approach to fit into ordinary people's commuting in the most populous country.
"We are in China. Do regular stuff," Wade said in the selfie video.
"It's always exciting to come to China, I am so grateful for the support we get every time we come here," said Wade who has more than 5 million followers on his personal Weibo account, the most-popular micro blogging platform in China.
Under the partnership with Li-Ning, Wade endorsed the Chinese brand to launch a new "Way of Wade" product line under his name, and has been actively involved in designing the WOW sneakers and apparel as chief brand officer of the line.
Wade's popularity has helped WOW products become one of the best-selling personal lines in the highly competitive Chinese sporting goods market, which is dominated by international brands such as Nike and adidas.
"The partnership in the first year happened very fast we didn't have the chance to really learn from each other. In the last two years, both sides are trying to get comfortable with each other and I think we are making waves.
"My vision and goal one day is when I travel around the world, I want to see a lot of people wear Li-Ning," he said.
Wade also announced the winner of the Li-Ning WOW sneaker design contest before playing basketball-themed games with selected fans at a fan-appreciation activity at Li-Ning's Beijing headquarters on Sunday.
Before coming to China, the 33-year-old shooting guard re-signed a one-year contract with the Heat for $20 million after opting out of a previous contract with Miami to become a free agent, who could potentially sign a longer and more lucrative deal with another team.
"When you are a free agent, obviously you have your options to see where you fit. So I approached the same way (other players did) even though my heart is in Miami," he said.
"I had a consideration from a business standpoint to see if everything I wanted in the team, the organization and the city was there. And it just happened in Miami that we are able to work things out for both sides, so I am happy to be back for another year and I think we have a good team".
Selected by the Heat as overall fifth pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, Wade led the team to its first NBA championship in franchise history in 2006 and then bagged back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 together with star teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh.