20 Fun Facts About Yao Ming And How He Re-shaped Chinese Basketball

  1. Charles Barkley is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Charles Barkley is now a regarded entertainment expert on US television. He once kissed the ass of a donkey. Live. On air. Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball superstar, was to blame. Read more below.
  2. There was a lot of skepticism when the Houston Rockets drafted the Chinese giant from Shanghai as the first overall draft pick in 2002. However, Yao performed exceptionally well and became an All-Star in his rookie season. He is one out of only two players that achieved this in the 2000′.
  3. He was born on September 12, 1980 in Shanghai. Before joining the Houston Rockets, Ming played for the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association CBA. In the last playoffs with the Sharks, Yao Ming averaged 38.9 points and 20.2 rebounds per game. The field goal percentage was 76.6%.
  4. The Year of the Yao” is a documentary film about Yao Ming.
  5. With 7-6 / 229cm Ming is by far the tallest player that ever player in the NBA All-Star Game. He ranks #3 for the tallest player ever in the NBA.
  6. Yao is not only tall, but also heavy. With impressive 310 LBs / 140 KG he is clearly the second heaviest player that was selected to be an All-Star. Only Shaquille O’Neal (325 LBs / 147 KG) weighted 15 LBs more.
  7. With 8 nominations for the NBA All-Star Game, Yao Ming shares the 3rd rank together with Steve Nash (RSA) for the most All-Star selections of a foreign NBA player. Only Dirk Nowitzki (GER) with 14x and Patrick Ewing (JAM) with 11x were nominated more often.
  8. Yao Ming has its own Yao Ming Napa Valley Brut Sparkling Wine.

  9. Yao was a starter in all his six All-Star Games. He played 102 minutes, scored 19 field goals (50%), and 4 free throws (66.7%). Overall, he scored 42 points in the six games, this equals 7 points per game. Not bad.
  10. Ming’s All-Star rebound records are as follows: total rebounds 24, offensive rebounds 6, defensive rebounds 18, and rebounds per All-Star Game 4.
  11. Approximately 25% of NBA players are international players. The All-Star Game is different: only 22 players out of more than 420 All-Stars players were international players. Yao Ming is one of them and he is the only Chinese basketball player to appear in the All-Star Game until now.
  12. 2,558,578. This is the number of All-Star votes Yao Ming received in 2005. This ranks him #18 on the list with the top 25 voting results. However, it is the #2 spot without considering the 2009 and 2019 votes. Pretty impressive!
  13. Turning 13 years, Yao started to play for the Shanghai Sharks junior team. Already in his second season for the Sharks, he broke his foot (it was the second time in his career already). According to him, the injury significantly impacted his jumping ability, which decreased by 4 to 6 inches / 10 to 15 cm.
  14. The Chinese giant was nominated 8 times to appear in the NBA All-Star Game. However, he was only able to participate 6 times and missed two events due to injuries. Other players also missed the All-Star Game due to injuries, but only a few more than once.
  15. Yao Ming missed around 250 games in his last six seasons due to injuries. After a series of foot and ankle injuries, he announced in July 2011 his retirement from professional basketball. However, Ming is still part of the game. He became the president of the Chinese Basketball Association CBA. Read more about Ming and his efforts around Chinese basketball below.
  16. Yao Ming has been inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class, together with Shaquille O’Neal.
  17. Ming is one of the best known Chinese athletes worldwide. He has major sponsorship contracts with a number of well-known companies.

  18. During the NBA playoffs, up to 40 million people in China watch the games live – due to the time difference in the morning. When Yao Ming played his first NBA game in October 2002, there were more than 200 million viewers in China.
  19. Roger Federer looks up to another world star athlete: Yao Ming.

  20. Yao Ming is still the only Chinese world star basketball player.


Now let’s get back to this donkey story with Barkley

That was back in November 2002. Barkley had lost a bet, and Yao was the one to blame: Barkley had tinted that the Chinese would never score more than 19 points in one game in his first season in the NBA. Yao Ming proofed Charles Barkley to be wrong: after only eight games Ming scored 20 points against the Los Angeles Lakers.

This is the story why Barkley’s lips actually kissed the donkey’s butt.

Even though the basketball world was skeptical about the Houston Rockets overall first pick in the 2002 draft, Ming became a world star. By now we know that Yao Ming has changed basketball. Maybe not so much as a sport, but all the more in its global reach.

Chinese basketball and Yao Ming

In the meantime, China became the largest international NBA market. 300 to 400 million Chinese play basketball – and Yao Ming plays an important role. He is the pioneer of basketball enthusiasm in China. The 38-year-old is now President of the Chinese Basketball Association.

It was in the late eighties when the NBA recognized the importance of China as a market. Back then, league chief David Stern negotiated that NBA games were also broadcast on Chinese state television. The partnership between the two parties has now lasted for over three decades.

No sports league, neither national nor international, is more popular in China. NBA teams are also marketing themselves in China independently and are hiring Chinese-speaking staff to do so. “If there’s a second center in the basketball universe, it’s China,” says Scott O’Neil, managing director of Philadelphia 76ers.

For the Chinese New Year, the league produces videos in which stars like Stephen Curry or James Harden greet their fans in the Far East. The teams also wear special jerseys with Chinese imprints in some matches.

In order to further increase their profile in China, the league and teams are focusing primarily on social media. According to the league, some 640 million people have seen NBA content in the 2017/18 season – almost half the Chinese population.

China’s tech giant Tencent spent around 500 million US dollars in 2015 to show games and highlights on its own digital channels for five years – including the WeChat messenger service used by more than a billion Chinese. Since then, the audience on these channels has tripled, and in July the contract was extended for a further five years.

Yao Ming – the only Chinese basketball superstar so far

Despite national enthusiasm, Chinese basketball still has a hard time getting off the ground. Although no other country in the world has more people playing basketball, apart from Yao Ming, no other Chinese player has become a world star.

The Chinese national team cannot boast any notable successes outside Asia. And despite its high salaries, the Chinese professional league CBA is regarded as a second-tier wannabe NBA.

There is actually more than enough basketball tradition in China: Just four years after the sport was invented by the Canadian educator James Naismith in 1891, Christian missionaries brought the game to China.

Basketball soon enjoyed great popularity at universities and also in military circles, even Mao Zedong is said to have been a fan of the sport. In 1935 basketball was declared a Chinese national sport, and one year later China’s national team took part in the Olympic Games in Berlin for the first time.

The focus is again on… Yao Ming

There is still a lack of internationally competitive structures and basketball is present in a rather basic way in China. With Yao Ming as president of the CBA, this is bound to change. He has already initiated some reforms regarding junior training and in the league.

Ming wants to establish a university basketball program, much like the US colleges and give the league more visibility through a higher number of matches and extended play-offs. The influence of the NBA can hardly be overlooked in these projects.

Ming is in close contact with the NBA to benefit from the know-how. As a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, all doors are open to him. But there is still quite a long way to go. Despite Yao Ming’s outstanding role, he has to fit into the rigid system of the Chinese bureaucracy.

Let’s hope that Yao Ming’s efforts will pay off and we will see another Chinese basketball world star at some point in the future.

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