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Yao helps Houston try to get World Cup

Friday, September 10th, 2010
by John

It’s been pretty quiet for Yao recently as he continues his workouts in preparation for training camp in a couple of weeks. But he did take time out on Thursday to greet members of the FIFA delegation who came to Houston to checkout Reliant Stadium and the convention center to see if they were suitable venues if the U.S. is awarded the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

Here’s a video where Yao is interviewed on why he thinks Houston would be a great World Cup host (excuse the very short commercial at the beginning).

Here’s the article that appeared on the Fox Houston Web site:

HOUSTON – The city of Houston Thursday hosted members of the FIFA delegation who are considering the United States as the location for a future World Cup.

Mayor Annise Parker and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair greeted the delegation at Reliant Stadium, one of the venues included in the U.S. bid.

The delegation and members of the U.S. Bid Committee took a brief tour of the stadium.

Houston is one of five cities visited by this week by the delegation, which arrived in New York on Monday.

The delegation is also looking at sites in Washington D.C., Miami and Dallas as World Cup venues in either 2018 or 2022.

After touring Reliant Stadium, the delegation and the U.S. Host Committee visited the George R. Brown Convention Center, which would serve as the international media center for the World Cup.

They met with Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and Houston Dynamo star Brian Ching.

Both athletes said they hope Houston will eventually be tapped to host the event.

“I feel it’s a very good opportunity to have the World Cup come to Houston,” Yao said.

Ching was also enthusiastic about the city’s ability to participate in the event.

“I think the diversity here is right for the sport. I think it would be great for the Houston economy,” Ching said.

Videos from Yao’s workout today

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
by John

Here are two videos that have been posted on the Web this afternoon after Yao’s workout at Toyota Center against Chuck Hayes and James Cripe (NBA D-Leaguer). It looked pretty intense, which we all like to see.

Yesterday, Dr. Tom Clanton — who operated on Yao’s foot last year — revealed that the hairline fracture in Yao’s surgically repaired foot has fully healed.

“Yesterday when I heard the news I feel that, not just me, the entire medical staff including Rockets staff, their efforts in last year all paid off,” said Yao. “I’m just looking forward to playing a great season in 2010-2011 and I think I can count on my foot now.”

And here’s an interview with Rockets GM Daryl Morey after Yao’s workout:

Yao speaks to the Houston media after today’s workout [video]

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
by John

Hot off the press…As usual, Yao is completely honest on how he’s feeling, how much weight he lost during the off-season, etc.. And as always, he had lots of one-liners that kept the media laughing throughout the interview.

Video of Jeremy Lin in NYC

Friday, August 20th, 2010
by John

I guess JLin is going to have some lasting power in the NBA if they feature him on NBA.com like this. Good for him. Check it out.

Video: Taipei charity game – Yao leads chants to get Chase to throw down a dunk!

Friday, August 20th, 2010
by John

Here’s a video of the second game that was played in late July in Taipei, Taiwan (for videos from the Beijing game, click here for part 1 and here for part 2).

In this video, you’ll see the first meeting between Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin. Many of you who read YaoMingMania.com may already know about Lin. He’s a very accomplished college basketball player who just graduated from Harvard, and has signed a partially-guaranteed contract with Golden State. Many Asian-Americans have been following his progress through college, hoping he can ‘represent’ them as the first American player in the NBA to be of ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese descent.

Obviously, Lin is a big deal in Taiwan, too, as you’ll see from the reaction of the crowd whenever he touches the ball. He was a late addition to play in this Taipei game, and had just flown in the day before to play. Several Lin fans had asked me over the years if Yao Ming had ever met Lin, or if a meeting could ever be arranged. Well, that meeting finally happened, and I was able to capture their first meeting ever in this video.

You’ll also see in this video many of the players having fun before the game. Aaron Brooks twirls a pack of napkins on his finger, makes an underhand granny shot from behind the basket on his first attempt, Amir Johnson makes a crazy shot from behind the backboard, and Brandon Jennings tries all kinds of trick shots sitting from the bench and trying to kick the ball into the basket.

Aaron is quite a crack-up. For example, the Taipei crowd was eerily quiet (except for when there was a score, then they cheered). Because of this, they played music during every possession to provide some kind of noise during game action, except during free throws, of course. Before one free throw attempt when the music was off, Aaron had some fun and said out loud, “Hi everybody!” (this isn’t on the video, but thought I’d share with you how funny Aaron is).

You’ll also see on the video the introduction of Yao Ming to the crowd. They cheer him heartily, as you would expect. What I didn’t expect was to hear them play the “Yao Ming” song when he came out onto the court. As you may know, this song was created by a local Houston fan several years ago, and was a song I thought would only get played in Houston. That’s why it was a pleasant surprise to hear a DJ play it in front of thousands of Taiwanese fans, making it a global song now. I’m sure the guy who created that song is happy to hear this news!

The NBA players are announced shortly after Yao is introduced, and I show in the video Chase and Aaron getting introduced. The guy who gets the biggest ovation, though, is Jennings. He received lots of attention for the show he put on during the first Yao Foundation charity game in Beijing a few days earlier. It doesn’t take long for the word to spread among millions of fans if you have a good performance in front of them in their own country.

I included several clips of great plays from the game too numerous to mention, but keep an eye out for great plays from Jennings, Amir Johnson, and Chase. Some of them happen so quickly, or are so spectacular, you might be compelled to rewind some of them to see them all over again.

One of my favorite moments of the video is when Yao Ming urges on the Taipei crowd to get Chase to do an impromptu dunk. First, I have never seen Yao have so much fun with a crowd like this before. Second, it shows how much Yao is impressed with Chase’s athleticism and dunking ability that he would immediately choose him. Chase would later tell me that he was happy that Yao had that much confidence in his abilities to pick him without hesitation.

What’s not shown in the video is how many breaks there were during the game for various contests to be held with Taiwanese celebrities, like free throw shooting or a skills drill. Sometimes these breaks would last for 15 minutes or more! That was definitely something the NBA players weren’t accustomed to experiencing, so they had to continually keep warming up after these long breaks so they didn’t pull a muscle or hurt themselves when they went back on the court to play.

By the end of the game, all of the players were pretty tired of having to warm themselves up mentally and physical over-and-over. Aaron, quite the jokester, wrapped himself up in several towels mummy-style to keep himself warm, and to have some fun on the bench unlike what he could do during an NBA game.

July 28, 2010 - Aaron Brooks wraps himself in towels during a slow period of the Yao Ming Foundation Charity Tour game in Taipei, Taiwan

Part 2 – video of Beijing charity game

Saturday, August 14th, 2010
by John

There was so much great footage from the Yao Foundation Charity tour stop in Beijing in late July, I had to split it up in two parts. Here is part 2 of that video. You can check out part 1 here.

Throughout most of the game coverage in this new video, I was amazed at how much Western and U.S. music was played at the game (and everywhere we went). U.S. music was probably played 99% of the time. The days of preventing U.S. popular music from coming into China are long gone.

One of my favorite scenes from this whole video was when a group of boys came out at halftime and performed. The players weren’t worried at all about going into the locker room and preparing for the second half; they were comfortable knowing they were going to win (which they did). Once they saw these boys start to do their thing and impress the crowd, the players sat down along the sidelines to watch it themselves, and even flipped out their cameras to take photos and video record them! This was the essence of what I saw on this trip: these guys trying to get as much out of the culture as the fans were of wanting to see them play basketball at a high level, all while helping Yao’s foundation.

At the end of the game, it got a little crazy when a lot of fans were somehow able to get on the floor near the bench, and as crazy as they are for the NBA, it got a little scary. But security ultimately got things under control, and you’ll see them do something that would be considered very un-macho in the West: hold hands to form a barrier. Amazing how much of a culture difference there is, and how they don’t get hung up on trying to look “cool” among other men. They have a job to do, and they’ll do what they need to do to maintain order.

When you think of the Chinese army, assuming that’s what these guys are since they looked like official uniforms, you think of a very disciplined set that wouldn’t get fazed by NBA players being around them. But there is one scene you’ll see that struck me: some army guys standing back as some of the players were coming through, taking photos of them on their cellphones. What a contrast!

Before that scene, you’ll see Yao Ming in the locker room addressing the NBA players who came over to China to play in his charity game. It was pretty cool to be there as he thanked them, and to have them applaud him back for putting it all together. It’s a rare kind of scene that shows how much of a leader Yao Ming really is, and how respected he is by other NBA players.

At the end of the clip, you’ll see Steve Nash come back to the hotel to a bunch of fans waiting for him — and mainly him. Apparently the last time he came to China for the Yao-Nash charity games left quite an impression on the Chinese.

Nash could have easily blown them off and headed into the hotel, but he isn’t that kind of guy. You’ll see these fans have no hesitation in doing what they need to do to get Nash to sign some of their gear — it’s much more intense than what you’d see in the U.S. But you’ll also see the security guards (in white shirts) are not hesitant to push and shove to maintain order. It’s also interesting how the fans who are pushed don’t get upset about it. If that were to happen in the U.S., a brawl could break out or a lawsuit would be filed. I guess people are used to being shoved around by security in China.

Once they get within earshot of Nash, some of the fans express vociferously how much they “believe” in him and how much they like him. You wouldn’t see that strong of an expression from American guys the same age.

I thought these scenes were worth putting in the clip to show just how different the interaction is between fans and security. What do you think? Do you think American people get a little too uptight when shoved by security guards, and we could learn something from the Chinese?

Video: Beijing practice and game footage, part 1

Monday, August 9th, 2010
by John

Below is another video from Yao Ming’s recent trip back to China where several NBA players who are clients of BDA Sports (Yao is affiliated with BDA as well) traveled to Beijing and Taipei to play in two different charity games for Yao’s Foundation.

You’ll see footage of many of the players arriving for their first practice in a nearby training facility. It wasn’t as much of a practice to learn set plays to run against the Chinese as it was a workout to keep them in shape. Throughout the entire trip, I got the feeling that all of the players weren’t worrying about the competition they would be facing. They knew how good they were even if they had never played with each other before. These guys came over here to help Yao with his foundation, get some good workouts in and stay motivated with other NBA players around them, and if they got some exposure in front of tens of millions of Chinese fans along the way, that would be nice, too. I never got the feeling these guys didn’t think they would win. That’s not a slam against Chinese basketball. It’s a testament to how good basketball still is in the U.S.

I loved watching all the drills these guys went through to stay in shape. Even though they’re pros, they were probably going through some of the same drills that high schoolers go through, but doing it much, much better. You’ll see Houston’s own Chase Budinger showing that even though he doesn’t have much of a chance to showcase his dribbling skills in the Rockets’ offense, he can handle the rock. And Baron Davis and Brandon Jennings showed why they are great handling the ball and taking it to the rack: they practice it over and over. I also was impressed with Amir Johnson‘s and Dajuan Summers‘ athleticism. Hasheem Thabeet was even participating in the dribbling drills, which doesn’t seem fair for a 7-footer who never has to dribble in a real game. So don’t be too hard on him since he was trying. But overall, I could have watched these guys practice all day.

Later in the video you’ll see the players in the locker room at the Beijing facility. They were even taking in all the atmosphere of the locker room because it had nowhere near luxury they’re probably accustomed to seeing in the U.S. It was pretty bare bones. After entering, they were taking photos and videotaping for themselves the spartan accommodations. Not that they were complaining. It was just very different.

You’ll see Yao enter the locker room where he greets Aaron Brooks for the first time in China. Aaron arrived in Beijing the night before (after the previous day’s practice) since he had some other commitments in China. Aaron isn’t represented by BDA, but because he was going to be in China anyway, it made sense for him to play in Yao’s charity games and help his big man out. And don’t forget that Yao showed up at Brooks’ basketball camp at Rice University a few weeks earlier.

Near the end of the video, you’ll get a glimpse of the pre-game entertainment featuring Beijing cheerleaders. They are very different from the dancers you’d see in the U.S. (so be kind, guys). But what I thought was cool is that the NBA players wanted to take in the atmosphere of Chinese entertainment at a basketball game just as much as anyone, so they sat on the bench and watched the performances, too. That’s something you would rarely see at an NBA game where they have to be focused on winning and want to demonstrate they aren’t easily distracted. Not in Beijing, which was cool to see. They are fans of another country’s entertainment, too.

Finally, you’ll see Yao get introduced to the crowd, who receives huge applause as he strides onto the court to welcome everyone to his charity game. I always love hearing the reaction among Chinese when Yao is introducted to them, or enters a room. It’s electric and I never get tired of it.

Then the NBA players get introduced, and most of them are asked to walk out on the court holding the hands of a Chinese child, which was cute to see. What I edited from this video was the fact they had to stand there a pretty long time as the pre-game introductions and festivities continued, something they’re not accustomed to going through. But they were troopers doing what the Chinese organizers asked them to do.

That’s where the video ends, but part 2 is coming over the coming days, so stay tuned for that. You’ll see even more entertainment from the game that was one of my favorite memories from the trip.

Exclusive: video of Yao working out on a basketball court, sans walking boot

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
by John

Okay, I’ve finally been able to get my first video I’ve shot and edited from China and Taipei up on Youtube. It was a long road getting around the Chinese firewall, but hopefully my new method will continue to work as I edit and post more videos from the Yao Foundation Charity tour over the past couple of weeks.

The first video below was shot by me last Tuesday in Taipei where Yao had his first public practice on a basketball court. You’ll see a media circus where tons of Taiwanese videographers and reporters were there waiting for him. They were probably allowed in to help promote the charity game that was to be played in Taipei the following evening, which sounds fine to me all in the name of trying to raise more money for Yao’s foundation. You’ll see how they swarm around him, but Yao takes it all in stride.

Then you’ll see Yao shooting the basketball from different angles on the court. He has no walking boot on his left foot like he did last September when we shot video of him at Toyota Center’s practice court, he doesn’t appear to have any problem shooting jumpers and landing on his feet, and he is extremely accurate making most of his shots.

You’ll also notice about two dozen schoolchildren in the background sitting cross-legged on the sidelines, being very respectful watching Yao’s workout. At one point, you’ll see them all cheer Yao in unison, and Yao acknowledging them with a wave. After his workout, Yao goes over to them to pose for a group photo.

I was able to ride with Yao in the van on the way back to his hotel. I can tell you the van didn’t have any air conditioning on a hot and humid day in Taipei, but that didn’t bother Yao or the Chinese organizers with him. Yao continued to sweat from his workout (and we all were), but there wasn’t one complaint from Yao or anyone else. One thing I’ve learned on this trip is that many Taiwanese and Chinese live in a climate much hotter than Houston and don’t always have adequate A/C in the vehicles in which they’re riding, but they don’t complain about it. They’re used to it. Conversely, this former Houstonian (and many other Americans reading this) couldn’t imagine being in a car with no A/C with a heat index over 100 degrees and not saying at least something about trying to get the A/C to work.

Finally, you’ll see Yao get out of the van and being accompanied by a phalanx of security as he makes his way to the hotel elevators.

The next video I plan to post in the next day or two is of Yao going through actual drills on a basketball court with some of the NBA players who came on his charity tour with him. It’s even better than the video above, so keep an eye out for it! You can follow YaoMingMania on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yaomingmania or at Facebook.com/YaoMania. You can also follow Yao on Facebook at Facebook.com/Yao, although this kind of backstory can be read only on the sites that have “mania” in the handle.

Great video of Yao on China Daily; huge front page feature, too

Sunday, August 1st, 2010
by John

I went to breakfast this morning at my Shanghai hotel, and wouldn’t you know right when I thought all the Yao “mania” would slow down now that his charity tour is over, I found a China Daily paper that had a huge feature of Yao appearing on the FRONT page (not the sports page). It takes up half the front page of their Sunday edition. Wow. Here’s the link to the video, and a link to the accompanying story.

Of course, this has slowed me down a bit in making more progress in posting videos, stories and photos from the past week, but it’s coming. Luckily the Apple store here in Shanghai (only two stores in all of China!) had that little Firewire adapter I had been trying to find for days in Taipei, with no success. So videos are on their way!

The NBA players have left, Yao has stayed, and the content will start coming

Saturday, July 31st, 2010
by John

The NBA players have returned to the U.S. and things are finally calming down a bit here in China. Yao has stayed behind in China, but I may be meeting up with him in Shanghai during a workout in the coming days. Of course, if that happens, I’ll be posting photos and/or video footage from here.

I’ve been able to post a couple of times since coming over to Beijing early last week for Yao’s first charity game, and then to Taipei early this week for his second one. But there was so much going on each day and it takes several hours to prepare my posts and edit videos, I couldn’t keep up!

So over the coming days and next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing more in-depth thoughts and posting exclusive photos and behind-the-scenes videos I was able to shoot with the gracious cooperation from the players and BDA Sports, the agency that represents many of the players who came on the tour. BDA also played a big part in coordinating much of this trip. I was with them many steps of the way. They are first class people, and I can tell why many players choose to be represented by BDA. Their openness allowed me to get some killer content that I’ll be sharing with you!

When I do start posting my content, I might end up jumping around a bit since, as many of you know, China blocks access to Youtube where I normally post my videos. On top of that, before my trip I bought a new Apple Mac Mini to capture and edit my video. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make clear when you buy these machines that they now have different “Firewire” ports from what Apple put in previous MacBooks like I bought a couple of years ago. As a result, the Firewire cable that I’ve used well in the past that connects my old Mac to my camcorder doesn’t fit the new port!

Because of this change by Apple, I spent hours going to different electronics stores in Taipei to try to find a cable, or adapter, that’s relatively easy to order online in the U.S. Unfortunately, no one had it in Taipei — one of the premiere electronics markets in the world! Apple computers just aren’t very popular over here (yet), probably since they’re much more expensive than PCs. But now that I’m in Shanghai, I plan shortly to go to the new Apple store they just opened up 3 weeks ago. They better have it, or I’ll be pissed even more! That will mean it will take longer to post the great video I shot, unless I can’t find a working proxy server that will allow me to post the videos on Youtube. So many technical hurdles on this trip.

Stay tuned for some great content. I was blown away by this trip, and I think you will be, too, with the photos, videos and stories I plan to share with you in the coming days (hopefully).