Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yao still a representative of China

Henry Abbott posted a little blurb about how much Tracy McGrady has benefited from becoming Yao's teammate. The quote from T-Mac was a

A lot of these kids over here in Asia really look up to me and watch my every move. They can tell me stories of things I’ve done, and I don’t even remember it. But it is true. Those things really happened. I just didn’t remember them. So this response was a lot more than I expected. So that’s a great feeling, for them to really be following my every move.

A must for a country to be able to compete in a sport internationally is that their lowest level players, the amateurs, must really love the game. Then, the next highest level will get more players from the lower level, and get better. That will affect the next highest level, and go up and up until it reaches the pro level. This is true in China, as the youngsters out there are all lacing up and balling, copying T-Mac.

There are hundreds of kids that love the NBA, idolize their basketball heroes, and copy their every move. With that kind of devotion bordering on reverence, a rise in overall talent is a guarantee. This affect is also multiplied by many times when you have 1.3 billion people, and such a high percentage of them are playing basketball.

And yet, when I think over this, I also realize that the majority those in America don't realzie that any of this is going on, and this extends not only to basketball, but also to all areas of Chinese culture. (Everything I say from now on is going to be very blunt) Most Americans are, quit simply lazy. They are content to stay within their own circle, and not explore anything outside of it. This is the same among sports and basketball fans, and maybe even more so. Millions of middle-aged men not only stay within their own circle, they limit themselves even more by focus all their attention on only basketball. So when a guy from a very different, secluded culture (Yao) walks in on them, it's no suprise that they become very flustered. A lot of people (American-born Chinese, mostly) accused those same guys of racism, but 90% of it was merely ignorance.

Also, since Yao was about the only link to China for most American NBA fans, those fans represented the whole of China with Yao. So every move by Yao was thought of as a representation of the Chinese people. One thing Yao conveyed was the loyalty and thoughtfulness of the Chinese people. But one misstep from him, and all that good rep was gone.

More and more, as I look back on Yao's first season, I'm amazed that he was able to survive. Not only did he have to adjust to the NBA style of playing, not only did he have to adjust to the different culture, he also had to represent 1.2 billion Chinese people. How many people could do all that at once? Yao is certainly a unique player, and person.

But now Yao is no longer a rookie. It's his fourth season, and despite all he's done, so much more needs to be done. The reality is one person can't do it all. Fortunately for him, more Chinese athletes are coming onto the international scene, both in basketball, and in other sports. But still, Yao is the main focus of American media, and he realizes it. A recent function in Houston (more info here), he said "I wish I can be a good textbook not only limited to the basketball sports." And for four years, hasn't he done a great job being a "textbook"?

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