Yao Ming that China became basketball's many unlikely new celebrity athlete in 2002 as soon as he join the Houston Rockets. The first foreign athlete ever to come to be a number-one draft pick in the national Basketball league (NBA), Yao stands seven-foot, five inches tall, and also proved to it is in a surprisingly quick and also graceful player throughout his rookie season. The is a favorite among fans and sportswriters, coming throughout as humble, modest, and immensely likable. He is likewise the an initial Chinese athlete to obtain international celebrity status.

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got to adult elevation by 3rd grade

The future NBA star was born ~ above September 12, 1980, in Shanghai, the biggest city in China. Yao is his family's name, and also Ming his offered name. At birth, he weighed ten pounds and also was the only child the parents who were unusually tall themselves. His father, Yao Zhiyuan, stands six-foot, ten customs tall, and was a basketball player because that a regional Shanghai team. Yao's mother, Fang Fengdi, to be six-foot, two inches in height and had played on the Chinese nationwide team in the early 1970s.

Yao thrived rapidly together a child. Because China had actually historically struggled to feed its populace of 1.3 billion, city dwellers sometimes had actually to use ration coupons to buy food. For Yao's family, it appeared there to be never sufficient food to satisfy the young boy's appetite, and his mommy would visit the stalls of the city's food industry near closing time to buy extra item cheaply. By the moment he was in the 3rd grade, he was five-foot, seven inches tall. Regional sports officials take it notice, and he was chosen to take component in a local sports college in Shanghai.

At first Yao was not overly interested in basketball or in any other sport. Instead, he chosen books around military history, and could recite details of old battles indigenous China's past. Once he got to the sixth grade he was taller than his mother, and three years later had actually reached his father's outstanding height. That exact same year, when he was in the 9th grade, he was signed to a contract v a Shanghai youth team. In ~ the period of seventeen, he became the Shanghai Sharks' star player throughout its first full season.

"I want civilization in China to know that component of why ns play basketball is merely personal. In the eye of Americans, if ns fail then ns fail. It's simply me. But for the Chinese if i fail then that means that countless other civilization fail together with me. Lock feel as if I'm representing them."

The Sharks belonged come the Chinese Basketball combination (CBA), a government-controlled nationwide league. Though football was still China's most famous spectator sport, basketball had grown increasingly popular during the 1990s. Soon there were much more participants in basketball programs than there were play soccer in China, and also NBA games broadcast on state-run television attracted huge audiences. Yao was also a member of the Chinese nationwide team, which competes in international events like the Olympics.

The NBA's brand-new International flavor

Yao Ming was one of several brand-new foreign players signed to American groups in the 2002 NBA draft. Though he to be the very first to become a number one breeze pick, Yao join a roster of players that consisted of Luis Scola native Argentina, Bostjan Nachbar from Slovenia, and also Brazilian star Maybyner "Nene" Hilario. That the fifty-seven players drafted, 16 were from abroad teams, a league record.

part thirty-four nations are stood for in the NBA player roster. One of the very first foreign stars to be Manute Bol, a seven-foot, seven-inch Sudanese player in the 1980s. The increasing variety of athletes indigenous Europe, Africa, and also now also Asia comes many thanks to attention in the sports in faraway places. Interest in the NBA teams grew with the assist of satellite television, which transfer NBA games, and also when the league began taking peak players on overseas exhibition tours.

In nations outside of the united States, the college athletic heritage is essentially nonexistent. Sports facilities exist solely for training national athletes for the Olympics. Professional sports is dominated by soccer, v intense national rivalries, football player who end up being household names, and also sold-out stadiums in every city. However professional basketball groups have also gained a foothold in europe cities. Talented players, both homegrown and imported, deserve to join teams and turn expert when they space still in your teens. They gain valuable competitive experience which makes them prepared to play in the NBA.

Still, there is some criticism of the new face the the NBA, and hints that the brand-new emphasis on international players might be a backlash versus the "bad boy" reputation of several of its biggest stars, choose Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley, and also Kobe Bryant. As town Voice writer Dan McGraw explained: "The perception—and late is always important in problem of race—is the the NBA is acing out the black man because of this firm (read: white) fans and international marketing money. High-scoring white men equals huge bucks."

In June that 2004, Ha Seung-Jin became the NBA's very first Korean player. Drafted by the Portland follow Blazers, the seven-foot, three-inch player has been hailed together the following Yao Ming. His eastern fans have referred to as him "Ha-Quille O'Neal.' however Ha wishes to monitor Yao's example, telling Peter Hessler of the new Yorker, "I want to it is in a korean Yao Ming."

checked out America in 1998

Yao's enormous height and also court skills began attracting notice outside of China. Player scouts because that NBA teams had found him, and so had actually sports marketing companies. In 1998 the strong gear maker Nike invited him come the United says for a series of basketball camps. The was crucial milestone because that Yao, together he called Peter Hessler in a file that appeared in the brand-new Yorker. "Before then, ns was always playing with civilization who were two or 3 years older than me," that explained. "They were always an ext developed, and also I didn't think that ns was any kind of good. But in America I ultimately played against people my own age, and also I establish that i was actually an extremely good. That gave me a many confidence."

for the next couple of years, Yao was caught in between his country and also the opportunity to come to be an worldwide superstar. China wanted to save him with the Sharks and also on the national team, and also was not eager to check out him leave the nation for a million-dollar contract come play through the NBA. A sporting activities marketing firm virtually engineered a deal in 1999, however it connected giving the Sharks a big percentage of his potential American paycheck, i m sorry would have been prohibited by NBA players' union rules. In the spring of 2000, Yao was invited to the Nike Hoop Summit—where plenty of international players display off your talents before NBA scouts—but the Chinese government refused to let him go. The Chinese nationwide team was around to start its Olympic workouts, the main explanation went, and wanted Yao come be ready for the 2000 Summer games in Sydney, Australia.

Yao and his nationwide teammates do an impression in Sydney. He played alongside six-foot, eleven-inch Beijing duck player Menk Batere and also Wang Zhizhi, a seven-foot, one-inch standout on the Chinese army team. Lock were dubbed the "Walking wall of China" for your prowess, yet China was beat by an all-star U.S. Team, 119–72. Wang went on to become the very first player native China to get in the NBA draft in 2001, and also Batere was also signed that year through the Denver Nuggets, however Yao continued to be in China. Among the reasons may have actually been his age: if a player has actually not come up with the college ranks, he should be twenty-two year old come play in the NBA once his rookie season kicks off.

join Rockets in 2002

Yao continued to play for the Sharks, wherein he earned about $20,000 a year, leading them to the CBA championship in 2002. Throughout one that the playoff games, Yao he take it twenty-one shots and sank every one of them. Finally, terms to be hammered out in between NBA and also CBA


Yao Ming that the Houston Rockets shoots over Amare Stoudemire (bottom) during a 2003 game against the Phoenix Suns.
public official that enabled Yao to go into the 2002 NBA draft. The CBA i agree to relax him indigenous his contract in exchange for a small percentage that his NBA salary. When the Houston Rockets winner the draft-pick lottery that gave them first dibs, Yao was their very first choice together a center. He was signed to a four-year, $18 million contract, with 5 percent the his value going to the CBA. That was likewise the an initial number one draft pick to come indigenous the worldwide players' ranks.

The NBA's newest player attracted tremendous media attention, but Yao had actually to give most of his press interviews through a translator in ~ first. He did not begin for the Rockets throughout the very first months of his rookie season, but began to present impressive talents whenever coach Rudy Tomjanovich put him in a game. ~ above November 17, 2002, in a match against the Los Angeles Lakers, Yao scored twenty points for his team and made all of the shots the attempted—nine because that nine. A couple of games later, he score thirty point out in a game versus the Dallas Mavericks and took 16 rebounds. In December that was named the west Conference's rookie that the month.

numerous weeks later, Yao made the onto the NBA All-Star team, beating out Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers in fan voting for the best center. Relations between the two players had actually been slightly strained when Yao an initial came to the joined States, because sportswriters liked to questioning O'Neal, the NBA's most well known center, what he thought of his brand-new competition. At one point, O'Neal made a disparaging remark in which that mimicked the Chinese language. In response, Yao reacted gracefully. "Chinese is hard to learn," the told one journalist as soon as asked what he thought around the "Shaq" attack, follow to Hessler. "I had actually trouble with it when I to be little."

called basketball's "Gentle Giant"

v his very own English-language skills improving, Yao started speaking to the media top top his own much more frequently. He easily emerged together a fan favorite in Houston. Throughout his rookie season, ticket sales because that home gamings at Compaq facility jumped to about two thousand an ext than the vault year's figures. His nice-guy attitude and easy smile, merged with his immense height and also lantern jaw, motivated the push to nickname the the "Gentle Giant." corporate America was eager to hire him, too, and he to be signed come a variety of advertising contracts. In one of his first, which compelled no dialogue, he showed up alongside Verne "Mini Me" Troyer from the Austin powers movie in an advertisement for apologize Computer. He additionally starred in a Visa examine card commercial. Reebok signed him to an proof contract rumored to be $100 million dollars, thought to be the largest ever in between a shoe company and an athlete.

Yao was an even bigger celebrity in China now. The pitched the Yanjing brand the beer, make in Beijing, and appeared in tv commercials for China Unicom, a telecommunications company. In 2003 the returned home to pat on the Chinese nationwide team, and likewise hosted a multi-national telethon that raised money because that SARS (Severe Acute respiratory tract Syndrome) awareness and also prevention. Ago in Houston, Yao had one more excellent season with the Rockets in 2003, averaging 17.5 points and nine rebounds per game. In one match against the Atlanta hawks in February that 2004, Yao score a career-high forty-one points. An ext important, he aided take the Rockets come the NBA playoffs, yet they shed the series to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Yao is well-liked through his teammates, even though his stardom can have brought poor feelings. They contact him "Dynasty," a reference to the Ming era of Chinese history. His impressive court an abilities certainly help. Yao's previous Rockets teammate Moochie Norris told one journalist that "when he throws girlfriend a pass, a many times he needs to shout the end your name so you understand it's coming," the brand-new York Knicks guard told Sean Deveney the the Sporting News.

Dwarfed Olympic team delegation

Yao quiet played for the Chinese nationwide team. At the opened ceremonies the the 2004 Summer games in Athens, Greece, he carried the Chinese flag as soon as his country's Olympic delegation marched right into the stadium. As soon as again he to be the tallest athlete at the Olympics. In the NBA, only seven-foot, six-inch Shawn Bradley the the Dallas Mavericks is taller than Yao. In China, broadcasts that Rockets' gamings on television attract fourteen million viewers, and also Yao is mobbed by pan whenever that returns. One Chinese man, Zhang Guojun, defined to a reporter why China's most well known athletic is together a lover figure. "Yao is essential in our hearts," that told Hessler. "He saw America, and also he returned."

Yao lives close to Katy, Texas, in a house he shares v his parents. Despite he is surprised at the media attention his NBA career has actually brought, he says he always hoped to attain greatness in his profession. "When ns was small, I always wanted to be famous," the confessed to Hessler. "I believed I'd it is in a scientist or possibly a politics figure. The didn't matter, as long as ns was famous."

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Beech, Hannah. "Yao Ming: China's significant Hulk that the Hardcourt becomes an NBA Sensation." Time international (April 28, 2003): p. 34.

Deveney, Sean. "Bigger and Better." Sporting News (January 20, 2003): p. 6.

Hessler, Peter. "Home and Away." brand-new Yorker (December 1, 2003): p. 65.

Larmer, Brook. "Dreams Deferred." Newsweek worldwide (April 10, 2000): p. 69.

McCallum, Jack. "Sky Rocket." Sports shown (February 10, 2003): p. 34.

McGraw, Dan. "The foreign Invasion of the American Game." town Voice (May 28, 2003). This short article can also be discovered online in ~ http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0322/mcgraw.php .

Murphy, Michael. "NBA Draft: These guys Are human being Beaters." Houston Chronicle (June 27, 2002): p. 6.

Rodgers, Marshall. "The Tao that Yao." Basketball Digest (May 2003): p. 46.

net Sites

"Yao Ming." NBA.com. http://www.nba.com/playerfile/yao_ming/bio.html (accessed on august 9, 2004).