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

Yao still a force, interviewed at Fortune Global Forum

June 9th, 2013
by John

Yao Ming was in esteemed company Saturday, June 8th, when he was interviewed on stage at the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, China. Here’s a transcript of the interview.

When asked who he thought would win the NBA Finals, Yao diplomatically skirted answering the question, but he did say he was a Spurs fan. This is probably due to him playing the Spurs so many times over his 8-year career — he can’t help but respect how they play the game.

June 8th, 2013 - Yao Ming is interviewed at the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, China

It just goes to show that even though Yao retired a few years ago, he still remains a global force as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and de facto ambassador for China.

As the Fortune web site describes, the Fortune Global Forum is the highest-level place for multinational CEOs—and the heads of China’s most important companies— to gain visibility into the emerging new trends, and meet the people that are shaping “China’s New Future.” It represents an unparalleled opportunity to build the key relationships and obtain insights that are vital to positioning multinational companies for long-term success, in China and on a global basis.

Here’s a list of all the speakers at the Global Forum. Pretty impressive names there.

Video: Yao’s conversation with Jay Williams last Friday

February 19th, 2013
by John

You might remember my post from a couple days ago where I posted some photos of Yao having a conversation with Jay Williams at the Asia Society of Texas located in Houston.

Well, the good folks at the Asia Society posted a video of almost the entire interview, which is very informational, as well as humorous! Click here to check it out, and consider joining the Asia Society — their mission is a very worthy one.

Yao’s whirlwind Friday in Houston [lots of pics]

February 17th, 2013
by John

I didn’t think that Yao’s busy Thursday schedule could be topped on Friday, but it did. So much happened, it took me a day to go through all of the photos (after my machine crashed and took me all day to fix). Below is my report from Yao’s activities in Houston on Friday.

Yao first started the day by making an appearance at the Asia Society Texas Center in Houston where he participated in a luncheon limited to about 40 guests (to keep it very intimate) who purchased premium tickets to benefit the Asia Society to have a great lunch, and hear Yao be interviewed by Jay Williams. Williams was the player chosen #2 in the 2002 NBA Draft right after Yao was selected #1 by the Rockets. Williams is now an analyst for ESPN.

Below are some photos from the event. Also served was Yao Ming’s Cabernet Sauvignon from his Yao Family Wines winery.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming has lunch with Jay Williams before their interview starts at The Asia Society of Texas in Houston

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming has some laughs with Jay Williams at The Asia Society of Texas in Houston

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming has a conversation with Jay Williams in front of a small gathering at The Asia Society of Texas in Houston

If you want to get a good idea of some of what Yao discussed with Jay, you can check out this video of Yao that was filmed a few days before the luncheon.

There were many funny moments as Yao shared his dry wit with the audience. But one of the most touching moments of the discussion happened at the end when Williams corrected an earlier statement of Yao’s when Yao said that every NBA player is unique. Williams begged to differ, telling the audience that Yao is not only unique because of his talent, but because of his character as well.

Immediately after the luncheon, Yao went to the 5th Ward in Houston where the NBA was holding one of two events where NBA players in town for the All-Star game could help out in the community.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming paints a bench at the NBA Day of Service in Houston

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming helps put together a slide at the NBA Day of Service in Houston

One of the funniest moments occurred when Dikembe Mutombo walked up and told some of the organizers and pointed to a project nearby that Yao should be working on because it was more difficult than the “easy” one he was working on.

February 15th, 2013 - Dikembe Mutombo tells some volunteers that Yao needs to do something more difficult than what he's currently doing

Yao then moved over to help some other volunteers move a Jungle Jim that had just been assembled to a spot where it would be permanently placed. On his way over, he physically bumped into Tim Duncan (not pictured) from behind, which kind of surprised him, but was funny.

A few minutes later, Yao ran into Kobe Bryant and they exchanged a few pleasantries. Bryant seemed really happy to see Yao. That says a ton about how loved Yao is among his former competitors. It’s also refreshing to see a serious superstar like Bryant get a big smile on his face like this one that you rarely see from him.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming and Kobe Bryant meet briefly at the NBA Day of Service in Houston

It was at this event where I witnessed that people in Houston still go crazy when they see Yao. It’s really interesting to see how they react when they see him. The looks of awe on their faces when they see how big he is in person — or the smiles he brings to their faces — is amazing.

But unlike just a few years ago, it seems like just about everyone has a camera in their cellphone now. As a result, Yao is crowded by even more people because they all want a photo of him, and he was getting requests from tons of people (non NBA players) to have their photo taken with him.

To make things worse, many times the requestors would hand their camera phone to someone else to take their photo, but then that person has trouble understanding what button they needed to push on the phone to take the picture, thus making things very awkward and frustrating for people like me who want Yao to be able to move about freely in his life without being a walking tourist attraction.

Poor Yao. He handles it so well, but I just wish more people would respect his space, just wave hello to him, and not get so enamored taking a photo with him using their camera phones. I also wish some of the media wouldn’t keep asking him the same dumb questions that he’s probably answered a million times, like the question he was asked, “How does it feel to give back to the community?’

Yao obliged as much as he could with all of these requests, but it really was too much since it slowed him from moving more than a few feet without getting hit up for another request.

Finally, Yao’s final stop for the day was at Houston’s City Hall where he was officially proclaimed a Goodwill Ambassador for the City of Houston by the mayor. I was able to get some cool photos of Yao walking in downtown Houston and in front of City Hall in the city that has embraced him since 2002.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming walks along the streets of downtown Houston

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming walks along the streets of downtown Houston and stops at City Hall

Yao then went inside City Hall where a throng of reporters, photographers and videographers were waiting for him to cover the ceremonial event. Check out the dozen or so cameraman in the back of the room that were there to cover it. You would think that this photo was taken in Shanghai or Beijing with all the media that was there!

February 15th, 2013 - the Houston media covers the mayor proclaiming that Yao is a goodwill ambassador for the City of Houston, and receiving a key to the city

Below Yao and the mayor talk as Rockets’ TV commentator Bill Worrell is about to start his opening remarks.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming speaks with Houston Mayor Annise Parker before being presented a proclamation as well as a key to the city

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming is presented a key to the city with his mother and father standing by his side

This presentation was a much bigger deal than you would first think since the mayor, Annise Parker, said she purposely has never given a key to the city to anyone since she has been mayor over the past 3 years! She takes it very seriously, but she knew Yao was a worthy recipient since she knows he will represent the city well.

Check out some video here of the mayor’s remarks.

A sweet impromptu moment occurred when a little girl of Asian descent (not pictured) in a Houston Rockets jersey brought a bouquet of flowers up to Yao while he was on stage. Yao holds the bouquet in the photo below.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming holds a bouquet of flowers given to him by a little girl at the City of Houston ceremony honoring him

Yao and his parents later signed a large poster of Yao.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming and his parents sign a poster of Yao in a Rockets uniform

Afterwards, the media surrounds Yao as you would expect.

February 15th, 2013 - Yao Ming is mobbed by the Houston media after he gets a key to the city

February 15th, 2013 - The City of Houston Proclamation for Yao Ming

Part 2 of Yao’s Thursday in Houston [more pics]

February 15th, 2013
by John

As mentioned earlier today (Thursday), Yao went to the Houston Zoo Thursday afternoon as part of his continuing effort to educate young people about the importance of caring for endangered species and animals native to Africa.

Below is a pic of Yao meeting some of the kids.

February 14th, 2013 - Yao Ming meets with some children at the Houston Zoo

The first stop was to visit the giraffes where Yao — when looking up to them — said something to the effect like, “Now I know how you guys feel when I enter a room.”

Yao moved on to feed them some lettuce, which they chowed down.

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Yao then visited with the kids in front of a rhinoceros, and Yao knew his stuff since he became educated about them when he took his trip to Africa last summer.

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This rhinoceros weighs over 3,000 pounds, but Yao knew that they really liked being scratched behind the ear (the softest skin on their body) like Yao is doing here. Yao even asked the kids if they would like to come up and touch the rhinoceros in the same spot, and many of them did.

Later Yao went over to the elephant pen where he did some tricks for Yao, like lifting his foot…

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…and stand on its head…

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After spending some time with the elephants and the kids, Yao went to a theater in the Zoo to talk to the children about the importance of wildlife preservation, and to watch a trailer for a WildAid film that’s scheduled to be released this Summer that chronicles Yao’s eye-opening trip to Africa last summer.

February 14th, 2013 - Yao watches a WildAid film trailer at the Houston Zoo theater.

Later in the evening, Yao made an appearance at Jeremy Lin’s Foundation charity event at Houston’s Minute Maid Park (where the Astros play).

February 14th, 2013 - Yao Ming meets up with Jeremy Lin and Rockets GM Daryl Morey at the Jeremy Lin Foundation charity event

It was a long day for Yao, so after he left, Jeremy and Daryl played a mean game of table tennis.

February 14th, 2013 - Jeremy Lin plays table tennis at Jeremy's Foundation charity event

Yao’s busy Thursday in Houston (part 1)

February 14th, 2013
by John

Yao was a busy man on Thursday in Houston. In the early afternoon, he filmed a commercial in Houston with Jeremy Lin and Dikembe Mutombo for WildAid to promote wildlife preservation. Here’s a few pics:

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Yao and Dikembe meet for the first time in a long time.

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February 14th, 2013 - Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutombo and Jeremy Lin prepare for their WildAid shoot in Houston

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Reportedly the consumption of shark fin soup is down 50% since Yao took up the cause to prevent the massive killings of sharks for the delicacy. That said, Yao said that having Jeremy helping out will be a huge advancement since he is so well regarded in China where most shark fin consumption occurs.

Immediately afterwards, Yao went to the Houston Zoo to meet with children to educate them about rhinos and elephants. I’ll post those pics a little later.

Yao even dwarfs J.J. Watt! (pic)

February 13th, 2013
by John

Yao has been in Houston the past week, and he’s sticking around through All-Star weekend festivities. Yesterday he had lunch with the massive defensive lineman for the Houston Texans, J.J. Watt, who also was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year this past season.

If you have forgotten how big Yao is, check out this photo of him next to J.J., who is 6’5″, 295 pounds! (from Watt’s Twitter feed yesterday)…

February 12th, 2013 - J.J. Watt's tweeted pic with Yao Ming

Here’s what J.J. tweeted…

February 12th, 2013 - Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt tweets about his lunch with Yao Ming

Photos of Yao at Friday night’s Rockets game

February 9th, 2013
by John

Yao made his second appearance at Toyota Center this week, showing up courtside to cheer his former team to victory. We’ve got more photos here in the forum.

February 8th, 2013 - Yao Ming sits courtside at the Rockets-Trailblazers game in Houston

February 8th, 2013 - Yao Ming throws a free ball into the stands at the Rockets-Trailblazers game in Houston

Video interview of Yao from Tuesday

February 6th, 2013
by John

Here’s a link to a video interview of Yao in front of the Houston press yesterday.

If you want to read some of the quotes he provided, you can check out this article here.

Photos of Yao & Jeremy in Houston on Tuesday

February 6th, 2013
by John

Yao is back in Houston for the next two weeks to attend All-Star game festivities next week as well as to take part in Chinese New Year celebrations.

He met with the Rockets’ CEO Tad Brown Tuesday morning to discuss details of the retirement of his jersey, then met with some of the current Rocket players, including Jeremy Lin.

February 5th, 2013 - Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin meet before Houston's game against Golden State

Click here to see more photos of Yao and Jeremy.

Yao also plans to attend Friday’s game against Portland.

Recent Yao updates. Plus, Yao will be in Houston for All-Star festivities

February 5th, 2013
by John

There hasn’t been much to report about Yao over the past couple of months, but we finally have a few updates for you.

Last week Yao was in South Korea for the Special Olympics World Winter Games since Yao is still a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics.

Below he is pictured taking part in a snowshoe relay, which he says is the first time he has tried a winter sport.

January 30th, 2013 - Yao Ming participates in a snowshoe relay at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Korea

Also participating was his wife Ye Li, and international movie star Zhang Ziyi, pictured below.

January 30th, 2013 - Actress Zhang Ziyi participates in a snowshoe relay at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Korea

Click here for more photos of Yao and others running in the snowshoe relay.

The next day Yao and his wife served breakfast for the special athletes.

January 31st, 2013 - Yao Ming serves breakfast to Special Olympics athletes with wife Ye Li

Click here for more photos of Yao serving breakfast.

In case you missed it, last week the Washington Post published an interview with Yao. They provide a pretty good recap of Yao’s life after retiring from the NBA, his relationship with Jeremy Lin, and the state of basketball in China. It’s highly recommended reading. Check it out here.

Yao is now in Houston for next week’s NBA All-Star festivities where we plan to cover some of his activities here on YaoMingMania.

In addition, on Friday the 15th in Houston at the Asia Society of Texas, non-members can purchase tickets and hear about Yao’s career and his rise to global icon status during a private luncheon. Guests will also get a taste of the first vintages of the Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet. Click here for more details.