In Japan, people expected him to rap because of his race, he said, so during tough financial times he agreed. He married a Japanese pop singer and they now live in Harlem.
In China, if he ran out of money between tournaments, he went to a gymnasium, where locals invariably directed him to the basketball courts. He would ask to play ping-pong and allow himself a defeat. Then he would put money on the table and ask someone better. He would still lose. Then he would demand an even better player, double or nothing. This time he would win.
“It was my stampede in China,” Green said.
Back in New York, table tennis was becoming a thing, something hipsters had decided to salvage from suburban basements and dank recreation centers. Two filmmakers staged what they called “naked” ping pong parties. There was no nudity involved, but the name was a decoy.
Among the star attractions was Green, who had exhibition matches with Kazuyuki Yokoyama, a Japanese-born former software executive who likes to perform in sequined boxers and the occasional feather boa.
Soon, the crowd was overflowing from the movie producers’ Tribeca loft. In 2009, Spin, a table tennis social club with mood lighting and a lounge vibe, was born. There are now eight points of sale in North America.
“It’s a bit of a silly sport,” said Franck Raharinosy, one of Spin’s co-founders, whose parents are from Madagascar and France. “Wally, from the moment you saw him he was different. He was cool.”
Susan Sarandon, the actress, joined the New York table tennis community. She too added glamor. At the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2011, she took Green for a walk on the red carpet.