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Yao Ming Makes His U.S. Debut

Posted August. 23, 2002 22:20,   


Yao Ming, known as “Walking Great Wall of China,” made his debut in the U.S. The 2.26m-tall Chinese basketball player scored 13 points, made 11 rebounds and blocked 6 shots in an exhibition game with U.S. national team held in Oakland on August 23.

Before the sold-out crowd, the home team crushed their Chinese opponents 84-54. It was as if top NBA players from the world’s best basketball league taught the Asian pride a lesson. The 30 points defeat is, however, consoling given the gap has narrowed down from 60 points in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and 47 points in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

The last night game was nothing like a showdown between the two countries. Yao, the No.1 draft pick by Huston Rockets, stole the spotlight of the game. A crowd of 19,873 mostly cheered for China, watching Yao who became NBA’s valuable asset.

Yao finished 5-for-12 from the field. He missed several chances of scoring 3-point shots, but made a 3.5m-range turnaround jumper against his aggressive defenders.

He weighs only about 135kg despite his height and has been told to work on his upper body. Therefore, many initially thought he could be easily pushed around under the post, but it was wrong. He pushed back the physical Americans like Antonio Davis and Ben Wallace when they tried to push him out. “He earned our respect,” Michael Finley said after the game.

Last year’s NBA rebound king Wallace, in particular, who said before the match that “This is our playground and they are going to have some hard times,” had hard times himself, landing on top of Yao at one time during the game.

Although Yao has yet to sign a contract with the Rockets, the contract amount is expected to top $10 million for three years given No.2 pick Willams sealed a three-year contract with Chicago Bulls for $9.18 million. Yang has said that he is looking forward to buy his first car and he is getting accustomed to things American. “I haven’t had Chinese food for the last three days and my favorite is steak,” he said.

Meantime, Wang Zhizhi, 2.16m tall Chinese star who played for Dallas Mavericks last season, missed the game although he flew in from Los Angeles earlier in the day.

Wang angered the Chinese federation this summer by refusing to return home for national team training. Despite Wang’s last-ditch effort to join the national team, coach Wang Fei declined to comment on the matter, saying it was in the hands of federation officials.

It remains uncertain whether the ‘twin towers’ of China will make their appearances together in the upcoming World Championships. Wang is currently listed as an alternate on China`s preliminary roster for the World Championships.

The U.S. has won the championships three times, while China managed to advance to the 8th so far. Philippine went up to the third place in 1954, and Korea’s best record is the 11th spot in 1970.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com