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Yao and Richard Branson team up for sharks

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
by John

Yao Ming and British tycoon Richard Branson have joined forces to help save sharks from extinction.

On Thursday in Shanghai, they held a meeting with a group of 30 of China’s richest and most influential businesspeople to try to cut down on the demand for shark fin soup, a traditional delicacy, despite efforts to ban their use and trade.

September 22nd, 2011 - Yao Ming and Richard Branson join forces in Shanghai to help protect sharks

September 22nd, 2011 - Yao Ming and Richard Branson join forces in Shanghai to help protect sharks

The event, sponsored by the conservation group WildAid, is aimed at starting a conservation movement in China “not just to protect the sharks but to protect tigers, and to protect other species that are in peril of extinction,” Branson said.

“When demand happens, the buying happens and the killing happens,” said Yao. He says he is using his post-retirement free time to campaign against the slaughter of 1.5 million sharks a week that is taking some of the species close to extinction.

Click here for more details and photos of Yao and Richard Branson at the event.

Video of Yao’s first interview since his retirement

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
by John

Yahoo Sports yesterday released a series of videos that is an in-depth interview of Yao Ming in Shanghai, the first interview he has given since his retirement.

Below is the main interview that has been edited for brevity. Although it’s good (and long at 23 minutes, with a couple of commercials inserted), if you really want to get into all of the details, you should watch every clip below the first one because the description “full episode” is a misnomer — there is more detail in each of the 16 videos that follow. Yes, 16 videos. Wow!

This by far is the best interview I’ve ever seen of Yao on video. I give alot of credit to interviewer Graham Bensinger for living up to the name of his show — “In Depth.” For long-time Yao fans, many of Bensinger’s questions might seem basic that you already know the answers to, but I did learn a few things, which made them worth watching.

I put some notes under each video as an indicator of what’s discussed in the clip, but it’s not an all-inclusive list.

Yao on his retirement decision (8:20)

– The first people he told about retiring was his parents and his wife. He was tired of the rehab and the injuries. He decided to retire near the end of February for his long-term health.
– He said his left foot is obviously weaker than his right foot, and it would never have gotten back to how it was originally.
– He will still workout on the basketball court at the Shanghai Sharks’ facility.
– He obviously didn’t achieve his basketball goals, with one being not winning an NBA championship, but he can still build his Sharks.
– He said his doctors say he could probably play another two or three years, but there is no guarantee he wouldn’t get injured again, so he chooses to protect his health.

His new life after retirement (7:50)

– He said he is “getting fat” (has added about 20-30 pounds) but because he is so large, it doesn’t show very much. He hasn’t worked out much since his retirement, but is thinking of working out hard again.
– He has been focusing on his team (the Sharks), some businesses, and his Foundation. He spent about 15-16 hours over a two-day period with his Foundation team, who are businessmen. He isn’t accustomed to long meetings like that, but his business people didn’t think it was that long.
– Houston was the right team for him. He feels “very warm” to them.
– He worked very hard in Houston because he felt his coaches and teammates had his “back” and were willing to protect him.
– He retired in Shanghai because he played 5 years there, and grew up there.
– He needs to give himself a “new target to pursue,” which is his Foundation and the Sharks. He’s also thinking of going back to college since he left school at 17, and didn’t have a chance to finish high school. He thinks that “going back to training my brain is very important.”

Fears of playing in the NBA (16:58)

– “I’m scared when I was coming over to the United States.” He had heard how physical the league was, it sounded like it was “wrestling on the court,” and that he might have gotten hurt in a very short time.
– When he was at the Shanghai airport about to leave for Houston, he was strongly tempted to turn around and go back to the Sharks. “I’m not going to lie and say I liked the challenge” but “I know when I put myself in that position, I would like to do that job.”
– Kelvin Cato, his former teammate, was a very physical player to practice against, both physically and mentally.
– The Rockets had a Chinese professor from the University of Houston help him transition to life in the U.S. “I think she did well…after awhile, I become like one of them. It didn’t take long.” (laughing)
– He talks about when he first met Colin Pine, his translator, at the airport.
– He started learning English around the 10th grade, so he had studied it for 10 years before coming to the U.S. But it wasn’t normal, everyday English that you would use in the U.S. He did learn “basketball English” though, like ‘pick-and-roll,’ etc.
– He wanted an interpreter the first two years since he was afraid he wouldn’t understand reporters’ questions and he didn’t want to give the wrong answer back to them.
– It was embarrassing when he scored no points in his NBA debut.
– Even backup players in the NBA can be good teachers.
– Before his breakout game against the Lakers when he scored 20 points, he had scrimmaged with his Rocket teammates at the UCLA facility and scored the last few baskets to help the 2nd team (the team he was on) beat the first team. He knew then that he was on the verge of breaking out (which he did shortly thereafter).
– He doesn’t like the “Yao Ming” song at all. It was too repetitive, and he tries to keep himself low-key. When he heard the song while he was playing, he just told himself to focus.
– His favorite commercial he did was the Apple one with Mini-Me.
– When things got hectic with off-the-court responsibilities, he ultimately found his peace on the basketball court.

Yao Ming on Shaq: He makes you lose sleep (3:03)

– He wasn’t nervous the first time he played Shaq because he didn’t know what to expect, and he wasn’t going to stress out about it. But he got nervous before he played him the second time because he knew how strong and powerful he was.
– He has a photo of himself and 5’5″ Earl Boykins trying to block each other out after a free throw attempt, and both of them are wearing #11 on their jersey. He thought that had to mean something.

21 and Frustrated (3:43)

– When he learned he couldn’t come over to the U.S. and play in the NBA in 2001, he was pretty frustrated (he had to wait until 2002).
– He knew the CBA (China Basketball Association) wouldn’t stop him from going to the NBA in 2002.

The Pressure Playing for Chinese Pride (4:15)

– Yao talks about the pressure he faced representing China on the basketball court, but he didn’t let it get to him, but it did motivate him.
– The movie theater is only 300 meters from his house, but he can’t go to it because he would be swarmed by fans When he does go out, he tries to go out at night.
– If he could be anonymous for one day, he would just want to walk the streets of Shanghai with his daughter and wife and do normal stuff like go get ice cream.

Inside Yao Ming’s China (5:49)

– They show video of Yao’s first home, school, and basketball playground. Yao recounts his memories of those places. He talks about missing his first shot when he was a kid, which was unexpected from his friends because they knew he was the child of two parents who had played basketball professionally in China. He went back to that same playground in 2004 when the Rockets were playing a preseason game there. He took his coach Jeff Van Gundy with him, and the first time he tried to shoot the ball (child-size), he missed again! Van Gundy made fun of him, telling him “Some things never change.”
– They show a video and talk about the facility where he practiced as a young professional and a Shanghai Shark for 8 years starting in March 1994 when he was only 14 years old. They also show the Internet cafe he used to visit, one of the few places where he could go and relax after practicing, and the arena where the Sharks played.

Racial slur mix-up (7:25)

– You’ll have to watch this one to hear what it’s all about!
– His favorite American slang word is “Yo,” and his favorite American food is Philly cheese steak.
– In China, when you say “cheers” with a drink, you’re supposed to drink it all right there. That gets you drunk pretty fast.
– He likes video games because the person you’re playing doesn’t know who you are. He still plays World of Warcraft. But he doesn’t really have much time to play those games any more.
– They talk about his experience with cars in the U.S.

Moving in with my parents at age 22 (3:45)

– Living with his parents his first few years in the NBA wasn’t difficult. He wanted a safe place and someone he could talk to.
– He laughs about he bought his first home in Houston before he even got his first paycheck. Kind of risky. The only thing he didn’t plan on was how it took an hour drive to get to the arena.
– He likes his house to be next to water since it’s more peaceful.

Is he injury prone? (5:13)

– He thought in 2009 if they had been able to beat the Lakers (he got injured during this series), he thinks they had a pretty good chance to win the championship.
– He thinks his weight (which he couldn’t change) and the high arch in his foot put alot of stress on his navicular bone because there is not much blood supply to it if he gets injured.
– Yao describes the surgery he had to reconstruct his foot. They had to break his big toe so his foot could better take the stress. The surgery took about 5 hours. He didn’t want to use painkillers too much, but he did a couple of times.
– He said if he had gotten more free time to rest, it probably would have helped him. But his Chinese national team commitment is not something he could have “gotten rid of.” When he wore the Chinese jersey, he felt like it was a shield and that it made you invincible.

Yao Ming’s favorite basketball moments (5:25)

– The game against Slovenia in 2006 in the World Championships was one of his most memorable games when China won on a buzzer-beating shot. Also, the game that got the Rockets into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in years, and the victory that got the Chinese National Team in the Olympics.
– When he was carrying the Chinese flag into the Beijing Olympic stadium, he could feel the 1.3 billion Chinese people he was representing.

I’m deaf in one ear (12:32)

– When he was 8 years old, he had a fever for about a week, and they found out there was a problem with his kidneys. He had some allergic reactions to penicillin.
– They talk about the attention he got after he was born because his parents played basketball, as well as the decision his parents had to make in sending him to a sports academy versus an academically focused one. His parents let him go to the sports academy because he wanted to go there.
– He would never go back to the schedule he had where he had to train 8-10 hours per day. He goes into detail about the schedule he had in the academy.
– Playing basketball wasn’t as much fun at first, but started getting more fun as time went by. He thought of quitting because it was so time-consuming and he had other interests, but his mother told him if he quit, he would have to come back home, and he didn’t want to do that.
– It used to be about how big you were, but the Chinese are aware they need to find smaller players who can handle the ball, shoot the ball with a quick release, etc.
– He thought 1997 was his breakout moment in a national game in Shanghai.

Training in the NBA is a science (6:40)

– In the CBA, their training program is not that great. It’s just very basic.
– In his first year under Jeff Van Gundy, he tried to get Yao to become more physical. Not get around something, but go through them.
– He didn’t mind the drudgery of repetition. He actually enjoyed it because every time he did it, it would help him, and he enjoyed the sound of the ball going through the net and the squeak of his shoes on the floor.
– If he went more than a couple of days without playing basketball, he got a little itchy.
– He learned to shoot from a chair in China to improve the arch on his shot.

Yao Ming’s mission to educate children in China (6:02)

– You can do little things every day to make a difference instead of doing one big thing, and then taking the rest of the year off.
– Over the past three years his Foundation has helped build 7 schools in rural western China. Each school has about 200 kids. Five more schools should be completed this year.
– It’s easier to work on his Foundation in China than it is from the U.S.

Yao Ming on his new baby (3:02)

– It’s very exciting to have a new baby. It’s so different.
– We want her to let her choose her own future.
– His wife has always been someone he could lean on.

“China is changing” (4:05)

– 30 years ago it was unheard of for someone to be able to make a million dollars per year, or per month. It used to be that everyone needed to make the same.
– The biggest area of improvement needed is with inflation. China has limited resources.

Despite being retired, Yao is still busy with endorsement deals in China

Monday, August 1st, 2011
by John

After making his retirement official about 10 days ago, it’s clear that Yao still remains a valuable spokesperson for Chinese companies.

Raymond reports in the forum that just a short time after Yao made his retirement announcement, on July 27th Yao continued to fulfill his commercial endorsement commitments for China Life Insurance. The company announced that despite Yao now being retired, they are going to extend his endorsement contract (terms unknown) when his current contract expires.

July 27th, 2011 - Yao Ming attends the opening ceremony of a China Life summer camp for kids

As China Life’s Global Ambassador, Yao made an appearance at the opening ceremony of the annual 3rd China Life Insurance Summer Love Camp in Xian of Shaanxi.

About 50 surviving orphans from the Szechuan Wenchuan earthquake, Qinghai Yushu earthquake and Gansu Zhouqu landslide are taking part in a 6-day summer camp. Accompanied by volunteers, these orphans will tour the 2011 World Horicultural Expo, visit the Terracotta (one of the 8 Wonders of the World) as well as the Ming Dynasty City Wall Ruins.

For more photos and details of Yao at the opening ceremony, click here.

The next day (July 28th), Yao flew back to Beijing from Xian and participated in the product launch for Beijing UniStrong Science & Technology Co Ltd, a high-tech company specializing in Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.

July 28th, 2011 - Yao Ming attends the product launch of Beijing Unicom's in Beijing

Yao serves as the company’s official image spokesperson (and actually is their 4th largest shareholder when Beijing Unistrong went public and got listed in the Small and Medium Enterprise board of the Shenzhen stock market). Yao has been a spokesperson for Beijing Unistrong ever since 2005, and his endorsement contract was extended for another 5 years back in 2010.

The product they launched is called China Position, a cloud computing cross-platform, cross-network, cross-industry technology platform claimed to be the first commercially viable cloud computing-based application in China that marked the entry of China’s satellite navigation industry into the “Cloud” era.

For more photos from the product launch and the product itself, click here.

Lots of photos of Yao at the Special Olympics in Athens

Monday, June 27th, 2011
by John

Yao is in Athens for some of the Special Olympics (he’s a Global Ambassador for the Games), which just started this past weekend. Raymond has posted some great pics in the forum.

Former Rockets’ teammate Dikembe Mutombo is in Athens, too, since he’s a Global Ambassador for the Games. Both Yao and Deke played a little friendly game of one-on-one on Saturday.

June 25, 2011 - Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo play some one-on-one in Athens before the start of the Special Olympics in Athens

Click here for more photos of Yao and Deke together.

Later, Yao participated in the Opening Ceremony of the Games.

June 26, 2011 - Yao Ming at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics in Athens

Click here for some impressive photos from the Opening Ceremony.

The next day (Sunday), Yao went to go cheer on the Chinese Special Olympics basketball team.

June 26, 2011 - Yao Ming visits with the Chinese Special Olympics basketball team in Athens

For more photos of Yao’s activities on Sunday, click here.

Yao and actress Zhang Ziyi send-off Special Olympics athletes to Athens

Monday, June 20th, 2011
by John

On Sunday, June 19th in Beijing, Yao Ming and actress Zhang Ziyi (both Global Ambassadors for Special Olympics China) attended a send-off ceremony for the delegation that will soon be leaving for Athens for the 2011 Special Olympics Games. Pictured below are both of them answering questions from the press.

June 19, 2011 - Yao Ming with actress Zhang Ziyi answering reporters' questions at a Special Olympics send-off ceremony

For more photos from the send-off ceremony, click here.

Yao Ming and Zhang Ziyi will also go to Athens for the opening ceremony of the Games. Yao told reporters he is excited, and is looking forward to seeing his old pal Dikembe Mutombo, who is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics.

After the ceremony at the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities, Yao Ming went to greet the basketball team, and track and field team.

June 19, 2011 - Yao Ming meets with the Chinese basketball team that will be attending the Special Olympics games in Athens, Greece

Meanwhile, Zhang Ziyi went to greet the gymnastics team.

June 19, 2011 - Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi meets the Chinese gymnastics team headed to the Special Olympics in Athens

For more photos of Yao Ming and Zhang Ziyi meeting the teams, click here.

Yao staying active in China with his charities

Friday, June 10th, 2011
by John

Raymond reports in the forum that Yao has been keeping busy the past couple of days in China. You have to give Yao credit for not just sitting around — that’s just not in his DNA

On Thursday, June 9th (China time), Yao flew to Jiuquan City of Gansu from Shanghai via Xian. After 10 hours of travel, he went straight to the Jiuquan Municipal Sports Academy without any rest.

June 9, 2011 - Yao Ming at the Jiuquan Municipal Sports Academy

For more photos from Yao’s visit to the sports academy, click here.

Waiting at the sports academy were approximately 20 students with intellectual disabilities who attend the Jiuquan Nash – Yao Foundation Special Education School that Yao’s Foundation funded and built. Since Yao is a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics, he conducted a basketball clinic for the students there.

One of the students of the school, Chen Xiaorong, will be representing China in the upcoming 13th Special Olympics to be held in Athens in June. Yao specifically picked her out, gave her a pair of running shoes, and encouraged Chen to believe in herself and give her best performance in Athens.

On Friday, June 10th, Yao presided over the inauguration ceremony at the school, which had been open a few months already, but Yao was there to commemorate its opening.

June 10, 2011 - Yao Ming at the inauguration ceremony of the Jiuquan Nash - Yao Foundation Special Education School

For more photos of Yao at the school, click here.

This is the first special education school in the city of Jiuquan for physically and intellectually disabled children. It cost 7 million RMB to build, co-funded by the Shanghai Special Care Foundation, the Yao Ming Foundation, Youth Development Foundation of Gansu Province, and People’s Government of the Suzhou District of Jiuquan City. The Shanghai Special Care Foundation (of which Yao Ming is one of the founders) and Yao Ming Foundation contributed 2.5 million RMB for the undertaking.

After the ceremony, Yao toured the facilities with municipal leaders from Jiuquan City.

Yao said he wished the completion of the special education school will provide the handicapped children the facilities they need to improve intellectually and physically, and urged that more attention be placed on special education requirements in society. Yao thanked his team, as well as Steve Nash, for their contribution and help in the undertaking.

Yao visits elementary school today; ankle is healing well; would like to play in Houston next season

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
by John

Yao visited an elementary school in Houston today to make good on a commitment he made for an auction from the Tux & Tennies Gala. Lucky first-grader Jackson Loyd’s parents won the auction to have Yao visit Jackson’s school today.

May 19, 2011 - Yao Ming visits an elementary school in Houston as part of a commitment he made for a Tux & Tennies charity auction

Click here and here for more photos from Yao’s visit at the school (courtesy Houston Chronicle).

Yao also told a Chronicle reporter today that he had a checkup on his ankle Wednesday, and the report is positive that the stress fracture is healing properly. Yao said he doesn’t know yet if he will be able to play next season, but will know more by August or September.

Currently, Yao said he is able to do some light jogging and weight lifting. If he can play next season, he would like to play in Houston.

“I’d like to be here. Nowhere else is better than Houston for me right now.”

Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander and GM Daryl Morey have expressed an interest for Yao to return if he’s healthy.

More photos from Yao’s visit to SF last week

Friday, May 13th, 2011
by John

In case you’re not subscribed to Yao’s Twitter feed or his Facebook page, here’s a link to lots of great photos of Yao in San Francisco last week where he attended the WildAid charity gala, as well as shot a public service announcement spot along the Embarcadero in San Francisco to reduce the consumption of shark fin soup.

Yao Ming is back in the U.S.

Friday, May 6th, 2011
by John

In case you missed it, Yao Ming has returned from China and was in San Francisco yesterday to attend the first annual WildAid Charity Gala to recognize his efforts to reduce the consumption of shark fin soup. Here’s a story on it in the forum, and photos of Yao filming a public service announcement in San Francisco earlier in the day:

May 5th, 2011 - Yao Ming takes a break from filming a PSA commercial to reduce the consumption of shark fin soup

May 5th, 2011 - Yao Ming films a PSA in San Francisco to reduce consumption of shark fin soup

Here’s the PSA that Yao participated in a couple of years ago…

Yao lends a helping hand after 3-game road trip

Friday, April 1st, 2011
by John

After returning with his teammates from their 3-game road trip that ended in Philadelphia the night before, Yao Ming was a trooper on Thursday by showing up and helping out at the Rockets’ annual Recyclefest where Houstonians could drop off at Toyota Center their donations.

March 31st, 2011 - Yao Ming helps out at the Rockets annual Recylefest at Toyota Center in downtown Houston

Click here for more photos of Yao at the Recyclefest, including a photo of Yao not wearing his walking boot (which is good news, hopefully, that his recovery is going well).

Even though there is no guarantee Yao will be playing next season in Houston, or even at all, it’s great to see Yao still wanting to help out the community.