Category Archives: NBA
Originally published in July 16-22 edition of NW Asian Weekly.
Many National Basketball Association (NBA) fans were stunned when news came down that Houston Rockets Center Yao Ming would retire from basketball. Although he spent just eight seasons in the NBA, his legacy will extend much farther than his massive wingspan and last longer than his time playing basketball. Although Yao may not have had as long of a career as most NBA Hall of Famers, his impact on the game of basketball has been great.
As the top pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, many Americans did not know much about this 7′6″ man from China. Many thought that this was a grand experiment and that he would fizzle out of the league. Some thought his success was based on taking advantage of lesser competition in China and that he would fall apart under the pressure of playing at the highest level. However, Yao flourished. Many found out that Yao was more than just tall. He was athletic. He had nice footwork and a nice shooting touch. In his first season, he was voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He finished second for Rookie of the Year honors. He later became an eight-time all-star.
Yao was a force off the court as much as he was on the court. He was a pitchman for such major companies as Visa, Apple, and McDonald’s. Yao became one of the most recognizable NBA players in the world. His success in the NBA gave the league the opportunity to market the game in China and other countries in Asia. Yao’s presence (and success) in the league fostered the globalization of the NBA. Without Yao, the NBA’s popularity in China would not be as high as it is today. He has become an icon in his homeland and a hero to many aspiring basketball players. He also became widely popular in the United States. Yao’s teammate Chuck Hayes best described the uniqueness of being around Yao, “Michael Jackson was before my time. Elvis was before my time, but if I had to guess, it was like being around Yao Ming.”
In addition, Yao donated $2 million to the relief efforts after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and created a foundation to rebuild schools in the area. He also participated in various charity endeavors including the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, which conducted events in countries in Asia promoting positive social change, education, and health.
Despite a demanding NBA schedule, Yao continued his commitment to play for the Chinese National team. Unfortunately, the constant play took a toll on Yao’s body. The same feet that allowed him to move with such grace hobbled him. Yao’s last seasons with the Rockets were filled with injuries due to issues with his feet.
Yao’s NBA statistics were impressive. He averaged 19 points and almost 10 rebounds per game. Prior to his NBA career, he averaged 32 points and 15 rebounds in five seasons with his Chinese Basketball team in Shanghai.
It’s unlikely that we will see anyone as important to the global reach of the sport of basketball as Yao Ming. At the early age of 30, Yao’s career in professional basketball is over. Still, his legacy will live on much longer and his popularity will remain. He is truly an ambassador of the game and should be rewarded with the honor of being in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. ♦
Originally posted at the Northwest Asian Weekly.
2010 was another great year for sports. This year saw big international events with the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. It saw the return to play of Tiger Woods and the continued dominance in boxing by Manny Pacquiao.
Locally, the Mariners had a disappointing season as hopes of a World Series were quickly dashed and Don Wakamatsu was let go midway through the year. Former University of Southern California head football coach, Pete Carroll, began his first year as the Seahawks head coach. The University of Washington football team made it back to its first bowl game since 2002. On the women’s side, the University of Washington’s softball team made it back to the College World Series. Finally, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm claimed its second WNBA title.
There were landmark firsts in the NFL and NBA. Ed Wang became the first Chinese American to be drafted in the NFL Draft. Harvard University guard Jeremy Lin became the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. Also, former Sonics executive, Rich Cho, was chosen to be general manager for the Portland Trailblazers. Cho became the first Asian American sports executive in this position in the NBA.
The following is a list of the top sports figures from 2010:
- Manny Pacquiao
OK, so the Pac Man isn’t Asian American, but I couldn’t resist giving him a nod, as he was the most impressive Asian athlete of the year. He won both of his fights this year in dominating fashion. Additionally, he was elected to the House of Representatives in the Philippines Congress, representing his province of Sarangani. He was chosen as 2010’s World Boxing Organization’s Fighter of the Year. Last year, he was awarded the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Decade. His next fight will take place on May 7 against a yet-to-bedetermined opponent.
2. Apolo Anton Ohno
Ohno made history this year when he became the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time by earning a total of eight medals in short track speed skating. In Vancouver, Ohno won silver and two bronze medals in short track events.
3. Rich Cho
A former Seattle Supersonics intern, Cho moved with the Sonics to Oklahoma City where he assisted in the turnaround of the former Sonics franchise. Cho was named the Portland Trailblazers’ general manager this summer by owner Paul Allen. Cho is the first Asian American general manager in NBA history.
4. J.R. Celski
Celski won two bronze medals at this year’s Winter Olympics in short track speed skating. Growing up in Federal Way, he learned to skate on inline skates. The 20-year-old was turned onto speed skating on ice after watching the 2002 Winter Olympics. Celski’s mother is Filipino, and father is Polish.
5. Julie Chu
Chu is the first Asian American to play on the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Chu attended Harvard University where she played hockey and became the all-time leading scorer in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history. In 2007, she won the award for best female collegiate hockey player. During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Chu scored two goals and four assists in five games. The U.S. Women’s team won the silver medal in Vancouver.
6. Jeremy Lin
When I chose him for my top 10 last year, no one knew his name. Now, Lin is the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. Lin went undrafted after a stellar career at Harvard University but his exceptional play during NBA’s summer league led to signing with his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors. His replica jersey was on sale to the public prior to the NBA season, unheard of for an undrafted rookie. Although Lin plays sporadically for the Warriors, he has a cult following of fans largely due to his Asian heritage.
7. Ed Wang
Wang, an offensive lineman from Virginia Tech, was chosen in the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. He is the first Chinese American to play in the NFL. Recently, he spoke with Chinese sports journalists about the NFL as part of a program to market American football in China.
8. Nonito Donaire
Donaire is the best Filipino boxer in the world not named Manny Pacquiao. The 28-year-old known as “the Filipino Flash” has 25 wins and one loss and fights in the Bantamweight (118 pounds) division. Donaire lost his second fight and has reeled off 24 straight wins. He won all three of his fights this year by knockout. Born in the Philippines, Donaire relocated to California with his family when he was a child.
9. Tim Lincecum
The two-time Cy Young winner was a key during the San Francisco Giants World Series victory over the Texas Rangers as he won two World Series games for the Giants.
10. Zhaira Consiniano
Zhaira Constiniano is a 15-year-old Filipino American teenage ice skater who will compete for the Philippines at the 2011 Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan. A native of Texas, the 9th grader is the youngest ever Filipino Senior Ladies Figure Skating champion. After the Asian Winter Games, she will compete at the 2011 World Junior Figure Skating Championship in Korea. Constiniano’s family and friends fund her international travel to competitions. Her dream is to be the first women’s figure skater to represent the Philippines in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.