The Chinese basketball court cleaner whose work ethic propelled him to fame
Although lowly educated, Meng Fei’s rise to ‘stardom’ has helped him land a new job earning over US$30,000 a year at a Beijing tech firm
Sometimes, success comes more from hard work than moments of inspiration.
But Meng Fei’s rise to internet stardom in China came totally from perspiration – the sweat of Chinese basketball players, to be exact.
Meng found fame on the internet wiping the moisture exuded profusely by athletes off the floors of basketball courts in Shenzhen. His mission: to keep courts dry and prevent player injuries.
Meng, who was 24 years old when he started working as a volunteer cleaner at a Shenzhen basketball court in 2013, did not graduate from high school, Huashang Daily reported on Tuesday.
When a player fell, Meng would sprint out onto the court and put on an eye-popping, animated exhibition of floor-wiping.
“I’d wipe the floor as hard as I could, and run off again once the floor was clean,” Meng was quoted as saying. “It’s mostly a muscle job.”
But he tackled his work with such gusto that his appearances became a highlight of the game.
He looked like he took the work seriously too.
“I tidy up my clothes each time before I enter the arena,” he said. “I’ll gel my hair and wipe my shoes, too.”
One day in December 2016, a clip of him running onto the court, holding two towels and eagerly wiping down the floor during a match was broadcast on state broadcaster CCTV.
A star was born.
China’s social media users raved about Meng’s diligence, his passion and his sense of urgency in going about his simple task.
His work ethic eventually caught the attention of a team in the Chinese Basketball Association – China’s equivalent of the National Basketball Association in the United States – the newspaper report said.
Happy to bring his work to a big league venue, he became part of the Shenzhen Marco Polo team’s pre-match warm-up performance.
It was not long before many other CBA teams were inviting him to wipe down their floors before a match.
Meng’s career reached its zenith when he was invited to wipe the floor at the CBA All-Stars game last January. Determined to make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he trained for two weeks for the event, running 10km (6.2 miles) each morning.
Over the following months, Meng’s story continued to spread on social media, reaching beyond the basketball arenas in which he worked.
About six months ago,a Beijing-based technology company offered Meng a job as a manager’s assistant at an annual salary of 200,000 yuan (US$31,500).
He jumped at the opportunity.
“Now that many people recognise me, I have discovered that the opportunities I have in life have increased,” Meng said. “I’ve always believed that there’s a bigger stage out there for me.”
Before he interviewed for the position, he said he spent weeks pouring over instructional video clips of people doing job interviews, analysing what they did or did not do well.
He applied his observations to himself. The effort paid off.
But Meng said he was not ready to close the book on court-cleaning just yet.
He dreams of someday wiping the basketball court floors at an NBA game.
And he may already have taken a step closer to realising his dream.
Wang Zhizhi, a prominent Chinese basketball player who was a bench player for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat, had offered to help Meng get an opportunity to clean the floor at an NBA game, Huashang Daily reported.