NBA news: In the wake of the controversy surrounding the NBA and China, let us not forget that both parties once had a good relationship, and one of the main reasons for that is Yao Ming. The Hall of Famer paved the way for the league to enter China’s one billion strong market, and it also created opportunities for other Chinese basketball players to gain more recognition outside their home country.
Yao played eight seasons in the NBA, and although he was forced to retire at the age of 30 due to a series of injuries, his legacy was already cemented. He was one of the best big men in the NBA during the 2000s, and he’s one of the greatest international players of all-time.
However, did you know that Yao almost never made it to the NBA? Former league commissioner David Stern revealed that China initially didn’t want Ming to go to the US.
“China wasn’t going to allow him to come out of the country to play in the NBA. I remember meeting with the president of the Shanghai Sharks. And they were all trying to get a payment from the NBA to allow Yao to come over. I said, ‘We’re not paying anything. If he wants to come, and you want him to come, he’s welcome. And if you don’t, that’s OK, too.’
“But eventually they announced that he was able to come, and sure enough he was drafted No. 1 overall in the draft. … It was a pretty exciting time, because he became a bridge [to China].”
China’s decision to allow Yao to play in the NBA was a historic moment for the country, as he became the first-ever Chinese born player to be selected first-overall in the Draft. The Houston Rockets picked him in 2003, and he immediately became a global sensation. .
This momentous event also allowed the NBA to become the first American professional sports league to play in China, as the Rockets played a couple of preseason games there since they drafted Yao. Since then, the relationship between both parties kept growing.
And current league commissioner Adam Silver wants to patch things up and save the NBA’s partnership with China, even after everything that happened recently. He will meet with Yao, who is now the chairman of the Chinese Basketball League, in order to find settle their differences and re-establish the trust on both sides.
Hopefully, both China and the NBA will be able to move on from this, and that they will be able to continue working together, not only for their mutual benefits, but also for the millions of Chinese die-hard NBA fans.
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