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Chinese actor reigns on social media during NBA All-Star Game weekend

Actor Dylan Wang reacts after hitting a 3-point shot during the second half of the NBA basketball All-Star Celebrity Game on Feb. 16, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Anyone following social media from NBA All-Star Game weekend may have been surprised to see an unfamiliar face among league standouts and legends.

Chinese actor Dylan Wang dominated social media during his visit to Indianapolis for Friday’s All-Star Celebrity Game.

In fact, on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter, the NBA All-Star Weekend 2024 page showed Wang trending on Saturday night, topping all others with people making more than 10,000 posts and counting about him. That tally continued to rise Sunday.

And for a true wow: On WeChat, Wang reached a personal all-time high interaction rate of 484 million.

So, who’s Dylan Wang?

The 25-year-old rose from the son of the owner of a roadside skewer shop to fame after winning “Super Idol.” The Chinese reality TV series, which lasted only one season, featured contestants who sang, danced and showed other performance skills. Wang’s victory led to his movie career.

Search for him on Netflix in Indiana, and subscribers will find him in 2018’s “Meteor Garden,” 2021’s “The Rational Life,” and 2022’s “Love Between Fairy and Devil.” None of the movies are dubbed in English, and are only available in Chinese language with English subtitles.

As Wang arrived at Indianapolis International Airport, fans swarmed and captured videos of him. Some of the videos showed people carrying lighted signs with messages in Chinese. Others shouted “Didi,” which, according to reports, derived from his first name Hedi, which sounds like the Chinese term for “little brother.”

Just like Taylor Swift, Wang’s fans know a lot about him, including his love of basketball. Trending photos included the place in Sichuan province where Wang played basketball as a child.

In a much-shared video, Wang met NBA Hall of Famer Paul Gasol. The two exchanged gifts, posed for photos, talked in a locker room, and played a Pop-A-Shot basketball game.

A fan commented on the Gasol video, “Our DiDi is living in his dreams! Please let him meet his idol LeBron James next.”

When they finally met, they posed for selfies. Videos captured the Los Angeles Lakers forward and the actor dapping up, then James signing a jersey for Wang. Fans so widely anticipated the meetup that Chinese TV captured and aired it. That video showed Wang could barely contain his glee upon receiving the jersey, holding the shirt to his face.

Watching one of those videos, one fan commented, “This is a very special moment, so happy baby,” while another said, “Ahhhhhh #Dylanwang met his idol LeBron James, I’m so happy for him, you so great Didi.”

As Wang entered and exited Lucas Oil Stadium for the celebrity game, many girls and young women took videos, yelling “DiDi” or other affectionate names to get his attention. Many times he acknowledged the fans from the court.

During the game, Wang won over the crowd, too. He played only in the second half but, at one point, scored two 4-pointers in a row. The crowd cheered loudly when, after what commentators on Chinese and American TV called a great scoring set, Wang mimicked a pose that James uses when he does the same thing.

Wang’s team won 100-91. He was the third-leading scorer with 18 points.

Fans found reasons to comment so many of Wang’s interactions while in Indianapolis. One said, “When DiDi met with @TyHaliburton22 and played with him, it was incredibly beautiful and I’m so happy for my darling. He deserves it.”

Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, during a Saturday news conference, was asked about the start of his own WeChat channel to interact with the Chinese market.

A reporter asked, “Is there anything you want to say to the Chinese fans who have been supporting you throughout the journey and also just for the All-Star Game?”

Haliburton responded, “I appreciate the love. It’s super cool to be on Chinese social, interacting with fans. That means a lot to me. So I appreciate that. I feel like that has a lot to do with me being first in fan votes. I know people see a player in Indiana and don’t expect that, but the love I’ve received from my fans in China has been amazing.”

Wang stuck around Indianapolis for the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night. He sat with Chinese commentators and talked with them during the slam dunks, 3-pointers, and skills challenge. Fans went gaga when Wang started eating what looked like some fried food on paper in cardboard containers from his spot on the scorers’ benches.

Also on Saturday’s broadcast, Wang recounted meeting James for the Chinese commentators. The actor said, , despite his tiredness due to traveling across so many time zones to arrive in Indianapolis, he bounded from his hotel bed upon hearing about a chance to meet his NBA idol. When they met, Wang said, he was excited when James unexpectedly reached out his hand.

On Sunday night, or Monday morning in China, the actor’s fans were still sharing photos of the jersey LeBron had signed in Indianapolis, complete with the hashtag #NBAAllStar2024.