Sports and K-Pop have a pretty profound relationship. From K-Pop fans wanting to learn more about their favorite idols and their passions for sports, to seeing idols play various sports on Korean entertainment programs, sports and K-Pop can go hand-in-hand in creating great content to watch. And as many veteran K-Pop fans know, there are a lot of K-Pop idols who were former competitive athletes, and there are also many idols that have great athletic abilities.
Let’s look at a few examples!
Jackson Wang (GOT7) – Probably the most famous former athlete turned idol in modern K-Pop would definitely be the incredible, Jackson Wang. As a junior athlete in China, he was one of the top fencers in Asia — and he even won a gold medal! Jackson was such an outstanding fencer, that he actually prepared to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London, and he even received many scholarship opportunities to elite universities, such as Stanford. And even though he could’ve had a spectacular career in fencing, Jackson ultimately decided to end his fencing career to pursue his dream of becoming a performer. But look at him now! He has taken the world by storm by doing his own projects with Team Wang, and has also dominated music charts all over the world, while being a member of GOT7.
Nakamoto Yuta (NCT) – While NCT is known to have a handful of members who are actually quite athletic, Yuta stands out as the most well-known former athlete of the group, besides Na Jaemin, who actually used to be a former speed skater. Yuta played soccer from the ages of 5 to 16, which showed his commitment and love for the sport, but just like other idols, he ended his sports career to become a singer. But at least NCTzens are still able to witness Yuta’s amazing soccer skills at events like ISAC, and even in NCT’s current variety show, “NCT World 2.0”.
Min Yoongi (BTS) – While Yoongi is most famous for being an extraordinary rapper and performer, to being an outstanding lyricist, as well as being a genius in music production, he is also one of the most well-known K-Pop idols who is known to be an avid sports fan, as well as a former athlete. Whether it was Yoongi trying his hardest to find a way to watch the South Korea soccer game online, while being abroad on tour, or even when he went to an MLB game to see Hyun-Jin Ryu take the mound, ARMYs are always excited to see Yoongi’s reactions when he watches sports. And the best thing about sports is that it brings people together, and this can be exhibited through Yoongi and MAX’s friendship. For example, even though Yoongi only speaks fluently in Korean, and MAX speaks fluently in English, basketball was the one language that they both spoke and understood, in which it sparked their friendship. And when MAX took Yoongi to his first NBA game earlier this year, it was so refreshing to see people of different nationalities come together over one common interest — in which it basically mirrors BTS’ growing fandom on a global scale, as well as the increasing amount of respect they are getting from western artists.
But other than being a sports fanatic, Yoongi used to be a shooting guard during his school days — hence his stage name, SUGA. And while ARMYs get ecstatic every time they see Yoongi holding a basketball, they will never forget the times where they got to see him play the sport he loves the most, on Korean entertainment programs such as ISAC, and BTS’ variety show, “Rookie King”.
Cha Eunwoo (ASTRO) – Because Eunwoo is known to have pretty good basketball skills, and is also known to have a complete passion for the sport, Coach Seo Jang Hoon (former Korean Basketball League star) had personally contacted Eunwoo, to see if he would join the basketball variety show, “Handsome Tigers”. Through this entertainment program that was released earlier this year, Eunwoo was able to fall in love with his favorite sport all over again. You could tell how much passion, blood, sweat, and tears he left out there on the court, every time he was playing and/or training.
Let’s take a look at some of the interactions between K-Pop idols, professional athletes, and sports teams.
Chenle (NCT Dream) interacting with Stephen Curry on Twitter:
ShibSibs on “The K-Pop Daebak Show” with Eric Nam:
SUGA (BTS) meeting Hyun-Jin Ryu:
SUGA (BTS) and the Chicago Bulls:
In the last installment of this mini series that will be released next week, we will be focusing on sports in Korean entertainment. I hope you are excited as much as I am!