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Big Demands on the Big Man (ESPN article on Ming and the media)

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Sane, Nov 9, 2002.

  1. Sane

    Sane Member

    Jun 29, 2000
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    By Marc J. Spears
    Special to ESPN.com

    Like Mike? Yao Ming has it like Mike and then some when it comes to the media.

    Yao has been quiet on the court, but he isn't allowed to be quiet off.
    From his "Air Jordan" heyday to today, the American media has watched Michael Jordan's every step and documented all the good and bad. As challenging as it might have been for him to deal the American media on a daily basis, what Jordan had -- and still has -- to deal with is nothing compared to what Yao Ming is up against.

    "It's tiring," said Yao, about dealing with the worldwide media.

    In Yao's NBA debut at Indiana on Oct. 30, he spent much more time talking to the media than playing on the court.

    The 7-foot-6 center talked to the media during shootaround. He talked to the media before the game. There was also five television feeds from China making him available to his homeland. And then once the game was done ...

    "As soon as the game was done, we did (a live feed on Chinese TV) for 15 minutes, he came back took a shower, went back out, did the American media, in which case, of course, the rest of the team is waiting on the bus," said Rockets director of media relations Nelson Luis.

    Yao's debut against the Pacers was available in 287 million Chinese TV households. The United States, in comparison, has 106.6 million TV households.

    As hectic as that night was for Yao, it was also just an appetizer for what he faced during his Rockets' home debut Nov. 2 against Toronto.

    There were 10 different television outlets from China on hand. There were also other international televisions outlets from Taiwan, the Philippines, Spain, Turkey, Portugal and two from Israel. And that is not including the mass of print media and two NBA media aids from New York. Moreover, after the game, Yao went live on television on three different stations in China, talked to the American media and did a teleconference with Chinese print media.

    The fascination of the new Ming Dynasty is far from over. There are still trips to major media markets in Los Angeles (four), the New York-area (two), Chicago and Toronto. And while playing at Golden State wouldn't seem to be that big of a deal, the large Chinese media in the Bay Area is eagerly awaiting his arrival Nov. 27.

    "(Yao) doesn't like everyone around him," said Yang Yi, a journalist from the Beijing Youth Daily who is chronicling Yao's rookie season. "He likes to be treated as a normal person."

    Said Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich: "He's going through the worst kind of situation you can put a player in, especially with all the media coverage there because he is not on the same playing field."

    Now, combine the media demand with the challenge of living in a foreign country for the first time, the pressure that comes with being the No. 1 pick and concerns about fatigue since he played for China the past three summers. Even for a big giant like Yao, that is too much weight on his wide shoulders. And with that in mind, the Rockets are making some media changes to help the big fella.

    "Now, we cut him back to just pre-game and post-game interviews, nothing at shootaround," Luis said. "The questions are the same. The same questions he gets at shootaround are the same as he gets just before the game. I'm trying to make it a little easier for him to help him with that and the adaption he needs to get over here.

    "He is trying to get acclimated. It's so difficult. He's not used to dealing with this constant media (attention). He's great though, as far as his attitude about it. He knows he has to do it. But if it was up to him, he wouldn't be a public person."

    Poor Yao, right? Well, don't go get a ladder to cry on Yao's shoulder just yet.

    Yao Ming
    Houston Rockets

    4 2.5 4.0 0.5 .333 .000

    Yao's pre-China tax thievery NBA salary is $3.2 million. And with aid from the worldwide media attention, he could make enough to build a car that he can stand and drive in and still give the greedy Chinese government and basketball association enough dough to line to their pockets.

    Currently, Yao has endorsement deals with Nike and two trading card companies. To help him reach his marketing potential, Yao has two agents, a marketing director, an accountant, an attorney, a financial planner and 10 graduate students at the University of Chicago, according to The Houston Chronicle. There have been 600 Chinese citizens polled in five different locations to determine their attitude on Yao. The grad students are coming up with ideas to market Yao's name and image, with a report due in December that will strategize the best community relations, media exposure and marketing opportunities for him.

    Even with that marketing machine help, Yao is getting enough publicity to draw endorsements. With Yao being a regular worldwide on TV, magazines, newspapers, etc., he could be end up being the most recognized sports figure since Muhammad Ali. Considering Yao from the most populated country on Earth and other international countries are thirsting for any info on him, an endorsement boom can arrive that rivals "Air Jordan" and Tiger Woods. But to maximize all that potential, Yao has to eventually do much more than average 2.5 points per game average as he is mustering now.

    With the worldwide media watching every long step, Yao will get the access to either make him into a superstar and money-making machine like Shaq times 10. But if the baskets don't fall and the shots don't get blocked, Yao could be end up being just another freak show like Shawn Bradley, Manute Bol and Chuck Nevitt. Hey Yao, the whole world is watching.

    "I feel a lot of pressure," Yao said. "I always feel nervous."

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