Air Jordan 20s both Yao’s parents were top flight players
In Texas and in basketball, they like things big. Air Jordan 20s And the biggest thing in both of them (almost Air Jordan 2010 literally) is one and the same guy: Yao Ming, formerly of the Shanghai Sharks, now of the Houston Rockets.
Beyond question, Yao is transforming the fortunes of the Rockets, who until this season were a wholly unremarkable team. Arguably, he is also transforming the global prospects for his sport and, on the most hyper optimistic expectations, changing the relationship between the United States and China in a manner not seen since the days of ping pong diplomacy 30 years ago.
So how big is this man? To be exact, seven feet Nike LeBron 11 five inches (226 centimetres) Shawn Bradley of the Dallas Mavericks is actually an inch taller (how do they measure these people, anyway with a sextant?) but even in the National Basketball Association, that league of giants, there have still only ever been nine players taller than 7’4″ (224 centimetres), headed by Manute Bol, the 7’7″ (231 centimetre) Sudanese cowherd drafted by the old Washington Bullets a generation ago.
There is always a suspicion with these rather pantomime ish figures that they are novelty acts rather than sportsmen. After all, when you can dunk the ball into the basket as easily as most of us can dunk a biscuit into a cup of coffee, it is a minor detail whether you can run, pass or block. That was the suspicion about Yao, who looked pretty hopeless in his first couple of games (“Ow! Yao!” said the early headlines). Now the season is almost halfway through, and the critics have gone very quiet indeed.
Yao leads the league in field goal percentage, understandably, but it is his passing that has become quite outstanding.
But what excites the NBA most is not his height but his reach, which stretches across the Pacific. Basketball has long been popular in China (both Yao’s parents were top flight players) and there is a potential TV audience four times the size of the US, which is Air Jordan 8s being shown about half the Rockets’ games this season, and apparently loving them. The NBA is opening offices in China, planning a Mandarin website, scheduling exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai . . . the marketing men are just drooling.
So are the folks from Nike, one of whose representatives in China spotted Yao (he would have been hard to miss) in Shanghai as a 16 year old six years ago. Air Jordan 16s Within days, it had organised a pair of size 18s for him, and the rest may soon be geopolitical sporting history.
This is a chance to reach out not just to China itself but the huge and growing Chinese community within the US, which is associated mainly with extreme workaholism and is short of heroes. Other teams have cashed in: the San Francisco based Golden State Warriors have been offering special ticket plans based on Houston’s appearances there. And even the struggling Memphis Grizzlies managed to get some decent publicity last week by offering free admission to anyone over 7′ tall. Two took up the offer: one seven footer and a 10 year old boy on his dad’s shoulders, who was given “A for effort” and a couple of tickets by a kindly official.
The Rockets’ owner, Les Alexander, isn’t exactly aiming low with his hype either. Yao, he said, will be bigger than Michael Jordan. This is a lot of weight on one man’s shoulders, however tall and broad. Yao has to stay upright and fit.
Another concern has emerged, in a letter to the International Herald Tribune from Russell Leigh Moses, an American living in Nanjing, who said he shared the excitement of Chinese fans at Yao’s success but noted a disturbing aspect, “the belief that Yao’s basketball prowess is testament to Chinese racial superiority, especially but by no means exclusively where African American players are concerned”.
Sometimes, he said, these views were “quite virulent”. Ow! Yao, indeed. Did you think you were just a basketball player, son?.