Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It's been a couple years since every one's favorite Chinese Basketball star YAO MING laced up his sneakers.  You see, Yao retired last year.  But don't worry...he is not spending his days on a rocking chair in Shanghai.  No way!  Today, YAO is busy promoting the C.B.A. (Chinese Basketball Association).  Currently in its twentieth season, the league has seventeen teams in two divisions.  Recently, YAO (a co-owner of the Shanghai franchise) sat down with some journalists in hopes of raising international awareness about the CBA.  While the DUNER BLOG wasn't specifically invited to Beijing...we will help our hero spread the message.

During YAO's playing days, he put up some BIG numbers is the N.B.A.  In nine All-Star seasons, he averaged nearly twenty points and ten rebounds a game for the Houston Rockets.  However, as an athlete, YAO is most proud of his achievements with the Chinese National Basketball teams.  The 7 foot 6 inch (2.3 meter) center anchored the Olympic squad three times, in 2000, 2004 and...his favorite accomplishment...in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Under his leadership, China reached the quarterfinals each time...China's highest finishes ever.  However, with Yao's retirement, the Chinese team sputtered.  At this year's London Olympics they did not win a single game.

It's clear: YAO MING is worried basketball's popularity in China will also continue to decline.  He believes the C.B.A. is the answer to keep interest up.  This season, he persuaded former Houston teammate TRACY McGRADY to come to China and play ball.  Since joining, the Quingdao Eagles have been unstoppable...even against other former NBA stars like STEPHON MARBURY (Beijing Ducks) and GILBERT ARENAS (Shanghai Sharks).  However, YAO understands this is only a temporary solution.  "You can’t always rely on the foreign basketball players to come and help with your marketing," he recently told the WSJ-Asia edition.

Simply put, YAO MING wants China to produce its own basketball stars.  It already has a billion kids ready to learn.  It already has lots of gyms and practice facilities.  The main problem, according to Yao, is: "convincing the country’s schools and parents to give students a break from their relentless study schedules" He stresses the need for a better balance for China's youth.  Yao feels "education is not only about homework and examinations. Physical education is important, too."

Yao is right.  And it's not just kids in China.  Studies show that children of Asian descent in the USA also exercise less than other ethnicities.  (In fact, only Pacific Islanders work out less).  For the time being, Yao is putting his energies into the C.B.A. in hopes of finding inspiring stars for Chinese kids to emulate.  He's also found a new role model in current Houston Rockets star JEREMY LIN.  Although from Taiwan (Boo!), Yao is cautiously optimistic that JEREMY LIN can influence kids in the PRC.  In praise of Lin...a Harvard graduate...Yao quipped: "He proved that it’s not necessary to give up education to become a great athlete.”


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