Yao Ming for NBA Hall of Fame

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. ♦


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$14 million up for grabs: Community fund developing strategic plan to help businesses in Rainier Valley

From the NW Asian Weekly:

Offering below-market-rate loans for the Rainier Valley business community, the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (RVCDF) continues its role in reviving business development after the light rail construction in the area. Former Seattle City Councilman Richard McIver was appointed as interim executive director in October to help guide the fund and draft a strategic plan for its future.

History of RVCDF

The RVCDF was established in 1999 in response to the massive construction project for the light rail in the Rainier Valley neighborhood. It was created as a self-sustaining, community-controlled, financial institution to stimulate economic development in the Rainier Valley area. The City of Seattle and Sound Transit committed $50 million to the fund. McIver hopes that the RVCDF will remain self-sustaining, and the strategic plan will address RVCDF’s sustainability. It is anticipated that funding from the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development will provide ongoing support for RVCDF activities through 2012.

The RVCDF first served as a fund to mitigate losses for existing businesses along Martin Luther King Jr. Way during the light rail construction. It now supplies loans for businesses in the Rainier Valley area.

At this time, approximately $14 million remains for business loans. For established businesses, loans average about $200,000 for a term of 5 years.

However, the range for loans is $50,000 to more than $500,000. For smaller or newer businesses, loans range from $10,000 to $50,000. “Our organization … assisted 99 Asian businesses during the light rail project and … made several loans after the project was completed,” stated RVCDF’s Business and Retention Program Officer Charleete Black in an e-mail.

Helping businesses after light rail construction

As interim executive director, McIver listed three priorities for the fund. “The first priority is to work with people that have survived the light rail,” McIver explained. This is in reference to business owners that endured the construction and are continuing or expanding small businesses. The next priority is real estate development, which includes looking at new investments from developers. The final priority is recruiting new businesses to the Rainier Valley area. He sees opportunities in building businesses in areas near the light rail stations at Henderson, Othello, and Columbia City to enhance ridership on the light rail line. McIver also hopes to develop a marketing brochure for the RVCDF to attract new businesses.

McIver indicated that his role at the RVCDF is temporary. “I agreed to take it on for 6 months, and we’ll see what happens,” McIver said. Prior to the end of his tenure, McIver will draft a strategic plan for the RVCDF, which will provide a roadmap for the future of the fund. A draft will be submitted to the board in May for consideration.

Although the RCDVF was welcomed by many businesses, there has been some criticism. Seattle City Councilman and former legal counsel to the RVCDF, Bruce Harrell, acknowledges the challenges the RVCDF faced, despite the fact that the vast majority of people were pleased with its work. “The feedback was very good, but some vocal people believed that the fund should do more, as they felt their businesses were still impacted.” Harrell added, “Some believed that the loan process was too difficult and the mitigation payments were too low.”

McIver recognizes that the RVCDF has denied businesses loans. “Some [business owners] are concerned with providing their personal finances [in order to qualify for a loan],” explained McIver.

“We are here to help people with business loans.”

RVCDF looks at factors including character, business capacity, and projected cash flow, as well as the impact a business will have on the Rainier Valley community. The RVCDF also provides one-on-one counseling and technical assistance.

Success story: Filipino Community of Seattle

One of the organizations that the RVCDF has helped is the Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS). A mainstay in the Rainier Valley since 1935, the Filipino Community Center sought help from the RVCDF when it looked to make improvements on its building. FCS received a $250,000 loan to finish renovations on its building.

“We knew that we would be able to afford their interest rates on their loans and, since the Filipino Community Center is one of the anchor institutions in Rainier Valley, they would understand our situation and they would be more willing to help us than a traditional bank,” stated FCS President Alma Kern. “As everyone can see now, we were able to add another 5,000 square feet to our building, including a second story with two big classrooms [and] meeting rooms, offices on the first floor, and a beautiful lobby.”

The funding for the renovation has produced positive results. “Since our renovation was completed in 2008, we have tripled the number of people visiting our center, doubled our rental income, and the numbers of meetings that are held at the center from various nonprofits and government agencies have tripled,” said Kern.

Future RVCDF leadership

Harrell hopes that the RVCDF will continue to assist businesses in Rainier Valley. “It is needed now more than ever because lending requirements are so tight. [This is] all the more reason for the RVCDF to have a strong portfolio.” He added, “The [RVCDF] board needs to be more aggressive to be established in the community.”

Harrell is positive that McIver will help lead the RVCDF in the community. “Richard McIver will do a good job in ensuring that new leadership is moving forward.” Kern mirrored Harrell’s comments, “Nobody knows and understands the Rainier Valley and its residents more than Richard McIver,” Kern said. “Richard McIver has the vision, compassion, and dedication to transform Rainier Valley into a community that is for everyone.

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Bellator ordered to comply with discovery in Zuffa lawsuit

Originally published on MMA Payout

Sherdog’s Tracey Lesetar and J.R. Riddell report that Zuffa received a boost in its lawsuit against Bellator Fighting Championships and Ken Pavia of MMA Agents as the United States District Court of Nevada denied Bellator’s protective order to stay discovery until the court decides Bellator’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

The background of the lawsuit was summed up by MMA Fighting last summer:

The suit alleges Bellator and Pavia were conspiring to essentially steal trade secrets from Zuffa through the exchange of confidential documents in e-mails. Pavia, head of the MMA Agents representation firm, handles dozens of MMA fighters, including many under the Zuffa umbrella.

In its motion to stay discovery, Bellator requested the court hold off on the parties from having to conduct written discovery and depositions before the court decides on whether to dismiss Zuffa’s case. Prior to the motion for protective order staying discovery, Bellator took issue with Zuffa filing the lawsuit in Nevada. Bellator claimed that it had no ties with Nevada and, by law, Zuffa could not file a lawsuit in Nevada. Instead, if the lawsuit were to continue, Bellator would want it moved to New Jersey.

Payout Perspective:

The issue being fought over is a basic Civil Procedure question involving jurisdiction. The papers even include a reference to International Shoe (a famous case for those that have attended law school). The court ruling means that Zuffa will agressively pursue Bellator and Pavia with discovery. This will range from written requests to depositions. It is likely that there will be many skirmishes between the parties about the production of documents and other information. The discovery deadline for the parties is set for the end of June.

As Sherdog points out. this case may serve as a model on how non-Nevada promotions and MMA companies will be treated in the future. Basically, can the UFC and other Nevada companies sue promotions in Nevada if those promotions have minimal contacts with the state.

(h/t: MMA Supremacy)

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The top 10 Asian American sports figures of 2010

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:

  1. 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.

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Lesnar’s next move unclear

Originally published on MMA Payout.

Does Brock Lesnar want out of the UFC? Dave Metzler of The Wrestling Observermade news this week with news that Lesnar may walk away from the UFC after his contract ends. The news took off that Lesnar was quitting MMA and going back to the WWE–which was not the case. Metzler needed to clarify the situation in an interview with Steve Cofield of Cagewriter.

In his interview with Cofield, Metzler believes that Lesnar does not want to go back to pro wrestling full-time but may entertain one-off appearances like a Wrestlemania. He also believes that Lesnar would like a deal in which the UFC would allow him to do Wrestlemania in exchange for his participation on The Ultimate Fighter opposite Frank Mir.

Zach Arnold of Fight Opinion has more about Lesnar and a return to the WWE:

What’s intriguing about UFC being reluctant to allow Brock to appear at Wrestlemania is that not only is UFC destroying WWE in PPV buys but they have also taken away a lot of disgruntled WWE/wrestling fans who are sick of the McMahon/Kevin Dunn cookie-cutter production. In one respect, Dana’s objections make complete and total business sense. On the other hand, why should he be worried about Lesnar appearing at Wrestlemania if the public at-large knows that UFC is real and WWE is not so much? Despite the amazing growth of UFC, I do think the situation with Lesnar indicates how nervous people in MMA still are to the fact that the public at-large, or at least the media, is willing to lump the two into the same business category.

MMA Fighting has Dana White’s thoughts on Lesnar:

[Dana] White reiterated that Lesnar is restricted under the terms of his contract from doing a guest spot for any pro wrestling promotion without the UFC’s permission, and that permission is not coming anytime soon. Asked if he could discuss any developments in Lesnar’s potential return to the octagon, White took a deep breath and took a drink of water before answering. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Not the most confident response from White.

There is speculation that his “run-in” with the Undertaker after his loss with Velasquez is setting up a return to the WWE just in time for Wrestlemania this spring. Thus, the reason we haven’t heard much about his return to the Octagon. On the other hand, some think that he is destined for a third fight with Frank Mir and he would be a “coach” on The Ultimate Fighter. This could explain the reason why White has not announced the new coaches for the next TUF. Is the UFC waiting to hear on whether Lesnar agrees to do it. Based on White’s statements, the UFC is unsure what Lesnar’s next move will be.

Payout Perspective:

Lesnar is the biggest UFC draw when it comes to PPV. He has drawn 1 million buys in his last two fights. The Carwin fight drew 1.1 million buys and his loss to Velasquez drew 1 million buys. If Lesnar left, his drawing power would be sorely missed. GSP is the only other UFC fighter that can rival Lesnar in PPV buys.

Perhaps it’s his WWE training, but Lesnar is a main event draw despite what you think of his ability. With Cain Velasquez injured, Roy Nelson out indefinitely with legal issues and Shane Carwin recovering from surgery, the UFC Heavyweight division lacks many top of the food chain fighters to main event PPVs.

It will be interesting to see how the UFC approaches the situation. It must decide its TUF coaches and plan Heavyweight fights with or without Lesnar in the mix. Fortunately, the influx of WEC talent can fill fight cards, but the UFC has to determine its Heavyweight division with so many of its notable fighters out.

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Frank Shamrock on Jimmy Fallon talking Strikeforce and anti-bullying campaign

Originally published at MMA Payout

Strikeforce’s Frank Shamrock made an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last Thursday to promote Strikeforce’s Dec. 4th event as well as his anti-bullying campaign, Stand Up Together.


Payout Perspective:

Shamrock’s appearance is a big step for the mainstream visibility for Strikeforce. I thought he was great but I would be interested in knowing whether the casual MMA fan knew the names Babalu Sobral or Dan Henderson, even if both were in the UFC at one time. It’s a good start for Strikeforce if they can get Shamrock on as a regular guest to promote Strikeforce fights. He’s a likeable guy and seems to understand Fallon’s comedy.

As for the anti-bullying campaign, it was a good way for Shamrock to leverage his appearance to promote his non-profit. The campaign makes sense for Shamrock since it could reshape the public perception of MMA fighters like Shamrock, appeal to a wider audience and elevate his image. Although not a target for bullying, Shamrock’s cause shows empathy for people that are susceptible to bullying.

via youtube.com/thefrankshamrock

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White honored at 2010 Sports Media Marketing Awards

Originally Published on MMA Payout

UFC President Dana White was honored with the Sports Media Marketing’s Game Changer Award Thursday night in New York. The award was presented to him by PromaxBDA, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of new technologies, applications, business models and industries.

From the Sports Media Marketing web site:

The Game Changer Award recognizes a cultural innovator who, through the development of new strategies, business models technologies, applications and industries, has transformed the business of Sports Media and Sports Media Marketing.

White was recognized especially for embracing social media and engaging UFC fans and sponsors in a bold and innovative fashion, something that hasn’t been accomplished by any other sports leader.

Payout Perspective:

White stands out from executives of other sports leagues for his forward thinking in marketing the UFC. He constantly uses Twitter to promote the UFC product without pushing it on followers. His tweets aren’t commercials like some other famous people on Twitter. I appreciate his pictures at the weigh-ins and/or backstage the most. He also uses #Hunt4UFC on  Twitter for scavenger hunts and ticket giveaways prior to UFC events. In addition, we’ve also written about viral videos the UFC has made in promoting its product.

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