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[Boston.com] Chinese fans root for Yao, but dream of Kobe

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by jsmee2000, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. jsmee2000

    jsmee2000 Contributing Member

    Sep 21, 2003
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    article link

    Chinese fans root for Yao, but dream of Kobe

    (Scott LaPierre/Globe Staff)

    By Patricia Wen
    Globe Staff / August 11, 2008

    BEIJING - The 22-year-old waiter, Huang Hui, admires Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant because he plays "rough and wild." Zhang Rui, 28, looks up to LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers because he's "a funny guy." And Xu Dan, 26, aspires to be like Denver Nuggets guard Allen Iverson because he's "a short man" who works hard in a tall man's game.

    At an open-air restaurant with two large flat-screen TVs, patriotism took a back seat to personal passions among fans selecting their favorite players. As they watched the Olympic US-China basketball matchup, touted as one of the most-watched games worldwide in the history of the sport, they relished the idea of an upset victory by the Chinese team (which failed to materialize as China lost decisively, 101-70) and hoped Yao Ming would help them achieve that. But when asked about personal favorites, many named American players, even as the nation's rulers have promoted China's Yao Ming as a national hero.

    At the Xiao Yu Mountain Restaurant, where patrons smoked, drank beer, and ate seafood, Yao was depicted as an admirable but colorless player who has dutifully carried the weight of a country's expectations on his broad shoulders. The most avid fans at the restaurant - mostly young men under 30 - did not seem to envy Yao's inevitable sense of national obligation.

    "He has too much pressure," said Huang at the restaurant, a favorite among locals in this neighborhood just northeast of the Forbidden City in the Dongcheng district. "He has so much responsibility to his country."

    Huang thinks his favorite player, Bryant, probably has a life that is "a little bit more fun."

    Despite Yao's obvious fame as China's first stand-out player, who has a 10-year contract worth $7 million to $10 million a year with Reebok, his National Basketball Association jersey is not the top seller in China, according to a survey by the NBA. The top sellers bear the name of Bryant, followed by Iverson, Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, and James. Placing sixth in jersey sales is Yao, of the Houston Rockets.

    The affinity for US players might be seen as disloyal to their countryman Yao, but most fans at the Xiao Yu restaurant did not see it that way.

    "One world, one dream," said Tang Wei, 27, a Bryant fan, repeating the slogan for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    Mark Fischer, a Cambridge native who has moved to Beijing to head up NBA China, said the interest among Chinese fans in US players is not surprising. He said it is hard for the typical Chinese fan to relate to Yao - whose 7-foot-6-inch, 310-pound physique is extraordinary by Chinese standards. Many Chinese fans are drawn to the US stars, such as the feisty play of Iverson who is relatively short at 6 feet. Fischer said typical basketball fans pick a favorite player based on personal identification, such as a physical attribute or personality style, not necessarily geographical connections.

    "Chinese fans love Yao, but he's hard to emulate," he said.

    As they drank shots of vodka and ate shrimp, a trio at one table all expressed admiration for Iverson. They related to him as a player who must have had to struggle to attain his place in the game.

    "He's short, but he is also a great player," said Xu.

    His friend Wang Tian Yu, 23, who works in the furniture business, said many of his friends feel the same way about Iverson, noting that the Denver Nuggets guard has been named NBA's Rookie of the Year and its Most Valuable Player.

    "All young people like Iverson," he said.

    Also a clear favorite was Bryant, whose picture adorns many billboards advertising Nike around China.

    Despite personal affection for certain US players, it was clear that nearly all the patrons, even those whose favorite player was American, hoped that China, the overwhelming underdog, could score an upset victory in a game that was attended by President Bush and his father.

    During the first half of the game, fans cheered loudly when a Chinese player scored on a difficult play. By halftime, China was within 12 points of the US team, which some fans thought was an enormous accomplishment. Thoughts of victory had not been ruled out.

    "I think it's impossible, but we can hope," said Zhao Chengkai, 23, an Iverson fan who is self-employed.

    Wang Wei, 28, said he hoped Yao could help elevate the Chinese team to victory. "Yao Ming makes China proud," he said. He insisted, however, that his praise of Yao was not just nationalistic. "Sports is not part of politics," he said.

    But by the second half, China fell behind even more. By the time the game ended, China with a 31-point deficit and Yao scoring 13 points total, the mood in the restaurant was subdued.

    Fischer, who heads NBA China and speaks fluent Mandarin, said team loyalty and personal favorites are often two different things. As he works to expand the presence of the NBA in China, he said, he is glad to see the expanding international face of the game.

    "You have Chinese people wearing Kobe shirts," he said. "And you have people in the United States wearing Yao shirts."
  2. R0ckets03

    R0ckets03 Contributing Member

    Nov 11, 1999
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    Heard this on NPR today as well.

    I think its more to do with Kobe being a swingman. Nobody wants to be a 7'6 giant no matter what the nationality. I bet if Yao was a shooting guard like Kobe and good at it then he would be the most popular figure in China.
  3. ccjj

    ccjj Contributing Member

    Feb 17, 2004
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    You need to be more mature to appriciate Yao not only as a basketball player but also as a person. China's basketball fans are pretty young. At 27, Yao is a very intelligent man.
  4. tinman

    tinman Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    May 9, 1999
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    what about the Ron Artest fans there?
  5. RocketsHero

    RocketsHero Member

    Oct 31, 2007
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    loves the title, it sure sells newspaper
  6. ReD_1

    ReD_1 Rookie

    Aug 4, 2007
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    Well said.

    As the writer said there are people in China who are wearing Kobe jerseys and there are people in USA and worldwide who are wearing Yao jerseys.
  7. dback816

    dback816 Member

    Oct 21, 2003
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    This is no different than the 5000 other "Yao Jersey NoT moST PopUlAR in ChinA threads" we have every once in a while
  8. Like A Breath

    Like A Breath Member

    Dec 8, 2002
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    By Martian standards too.
  9. MartianMan

    MartianMan Contributing Member

    May 2, 2005
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    That's true.
  10. HAYJON02

    HAYJON02 Contributing Member

    May 20, 2002
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    And every time the article doesn't even mention that probably everyone in China has a Yao jersey already.

    No one wants to be James Bond all the time. Sometimes you want to be Indiana Jones or Joel from MST3K. Gah.

    The only time I ever got two of a players jersey was Sam Cassell but that was an accident. To make it worse in retrospect, they were the "new" "fancy" clown suit unis.

    For some reason, I still can't part with them. The only jerseys I ever got rid of were Pippen's and Johnny Damon's, but that was by incineration. The jerseys screamed as they released their evil power.

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