Yao Ming Mania! All about Chinese basketball star and NBA All-Star Yao Ming » About Yao Mania!

About Yao Mania!

I embarked on creating one of the first Web sites dedicated to Yao Ming in May 2002, a few days after the Houston Rockets won the draft lottery and were in position to draft him as the #1 pick in the NBA.

At the time, Yao was a mystery to most Americans and mostly everyone outside of China. Even though I’m Asian-American, I didn’t know much about him, and I wanted to learn more…especially since it was likely he was going to be playing for my beloved Rockets. So as I researched Yao and learned more about him, I figured that others might also be interested in learning about him, too.

I also figured since Yao was so unique, and he had the backing of hundreds of millions of Chinese and Chinese-Americans behind him, that there would be a maniacal following for this very special athlete and individual. That’s why I created a Web site dedicated to Yao so that everyone throughout the world (including many countries where the broadcast of NBA games is not available) could use it to follow what was going on with Yao, and I called it YaoMingMania.com.

At first I posted links to articles about Yao, provided my own analysis, created a discussion forum so fans could converse about Yao, and provided summaries from so-called “experts” about how he would fare in the NBA (many of the bad predictions can be found here).

YaoMingMania takes off!

Yao’s rookie year in 2002 was one of the most memorable rookie seasons for an athlete the world has ever seen, and the fan following for Yao has continued to grow since. After only a few short months of launching the site, I was able to make YaoMingMania.com the number one site dedicated to Yao (according to the search engines).

thumbnailThe site was also recognized as one of the Top 5 “sports nuts” sites by PC Magazine (click on the image to the left to see an alphabetical listing of the top 5 sites).

It wasn’t easy, though. I dedicated myself to differentiate the site by providing very frequent updates on Yao. I also watched every Rockets game, provided my analysis of his performance, and even did a play-by-play analysis and shot chart of every play in which Yao was involved – shots, blocks, and assists. (Click on the image below to see an example of a shot chart and “Detailed Yao Analysis” I once created for every game.)

Yao vs. Lakers – 11/13/04

All of this took time – a lot of it. I would normally work about 7-8 hours after each game (35-40 hours per week), many times going to bed just a couple of hours before having to wake up and go to my day job where I averaged 50+ hours per week. It was so grueling I thought about quitting, but the feedback I was getting from readers and followers was so overwhelmingly positive, I couldn’t stop!

I wasn’t getting paid for my work, and to this day I still don’t. I had many people suggest that I put ads on my site to try to make money, but I really didn’t want to exploit Yao (nor perturb his marketing people). I also didn’t want the hassle of having to fend off nasty letters from his lawyers. So I kept the site free and pure. As a result, I wasn’t beholden to any sponsors who might be wary of me giving my true opinions if they were unfavorable to Yao. For better or worse, I wanted to call his game as I saw it.

After running YaoMingMania.com for two years, I had to scale back on all the detail I provided on Yao’s games. Although I enjoyed providing so much detail of his game, it was killing me physically and mentally to work as many hours as I was in addition to my full-time job. But I did keep doing my analysis of the game and described his key highlights.

The merger

In the fall of 2004, Yao’s third season, his marketing people wanted me to join forces with them. I guess they were so impressed with the quality of my work, and the fact that I had gained top status in most search engines for the keyword search results for “Yao Ming,” they wanted me to merge YaoMingMania.com with a new, official Yao Ming fan club site. Although it wouldn’t pay any money, I realized there was going to be some benefit to be aligned officially with Yao Ming and his marketing folks through the new YaoMingFanClub.com site. I would create the same content and analysis as I had been doing all along, I could be as objective as I wanted, and this content would fall under the “Yao Mania!” section of YaoMingFanClub.com.

As expected, I was able to get interview access to Yao, like in New York City while he was promoting his new book, and was able to attend key events, like the opening of his movie “The Year of the Yao” at the Toronto Film Festival (although I paid for my own travel, which is par for the course). I also was going to have the benefit of collaborating with folks who have better Web design skills than I have, and participate in the formation of the official Yao Ming Fan Club.

The fan club is still in the process of being organized and created. I really don’t manage that aspect of Yao’s activities, but I am optimistic that events will be held to build more community among Yao’s fans. In the meantime, we still have the Yao Mania! section as well as the discussion forum for all of us to communicate with each other.

Along came the blog

Anyone following activity on the Internet lately has noticed an interesting phenomenon over the past year or so – the popularity of blogs. When you think about it, YaoMingMania.com was really one of the first blogs even before the word “blog” ever was created. It was my analysis and opinions, but just in a traditional Web site format.

The blogging platform comes with some very exciting tools and features that I am excited to embrace starting with the 2005-06 season. Those benefits include the following:

  • It’s much easier for me to manage the content and categorize my reports in different ways. For instance, you can look at all of Yao’s games by month, or against each team (I am still in the process of converting all of the content from the old platform to this new blog platform).
  • You can subscribe to my content using RSS feeds (see links under “Subscribe” in the navigation column to the right).
  • You can search the blog using keywords.

There are also some policy changes for the 2005-06 season. You will no longer be required to register on YaoMingFanClub.com to read this Yao Mania! content.

You’ll also notice that the pages for “ClubYao” either have “YaoMingFanClub.com” or “YaoMingMania.com” in the URL. After the merger with YaoMingFanClub in 2004, almost all of the pages took on the YaoMingFanClub.com domain. But now with the new blog in place (and the new look-and-feel of the discussion forum that mirrors the rest of ClubYao), some of the pages have gone back to the YaoMingMania.com domain because I own that domain and personally host those pages, giving me more flexibility in creating and managing content. It’s a small variation considering that all the pages now look better with a consistent ClubYao theme.

In closing, maybe someday I’ll be able to resurrect the shot charts and play-by-play analysis. Very few people have been willing to dedicate the same amount of time I have done in the past. I have had a few people volunteer, only to bow out of the commitment once they realized how much work it was. I have learned it’s more a waste of my time to train someone to do what I do, only to have them bail out. The one exception was in the 2004-05 season when I had Chia-Chi cover some of the games for me. Chia-Chi was great, but he is now in law school, so there is no way he can make the same commitment.

The other exception has been ‘Raymond,’ a long-time correspondent in the discussion forum who lives in China. He does a great job reading articles written in the Chinese newspapers, translating them into English and posting them in the forum. He also posts great photos of Yao as well. I thank him very much for his efforts.

john b [at] YaoMingMania.com