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I’ve always felt a deep connection with Yao Ming. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both minorities (Asian and Animated-American), or that we’re now both set to be Hall of Famers (Basketball, Scripps National Spelling Bee). Yeah, if you missed the memo, Yao Ming is an inductee in the 2016 Naismith Hall of Fame class, which also includes Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tom Izzo. That’s pretty vaunted company for the eight-time All-Star, but there’s more to his story. Ming went on the record about his rookie season in Houston and the team’s casual name-hazing.
From The Players Tribune:
There were a lot of big things that were different when I came to the NBA, but I remember the little things like that the most. For example, everyone called me “Yao” — they thought it was my first name. In China, our surnames come first and our given names last. To my Chinese friends, I was Ming. Now I was just Yao. Once everyone started saying it that way, I never corrected them. I was too shy.
I hear that, man. I’ve been here a while now and DeVry still calls me Cum Puddle during his nightly e-mails. I mean, my name is featured pretty prominently on the site, but nope. Just “Puddle” this, and “Shitdick” that. It’s even worse in Yao’s case though. He has entire countries calling him by his surname forever. It’s like being the pledge whose name is Richard, but an active calls you Dick one day. You can’t correct them early, so it sticks for life. I bet the Rockets knew about the whole name thing (they hired an expert on Chinese culture, for fuck’s sake) and were just intentionally giving the rookie from the Far East some guff. It’s called hazing, look it up.
Yao also talked about his relationship with point guard Steve Francis, the guy he credits with making him feel at home in Houston. During his first week, the Rockets sponsored a charity golf tournament. Francis gave the still shy Yao a ride to the course.
Luckily, Steve was great at making conversation, and I was excited to listen. We started talking about the NBA. He was telling me what things I could expect in my rookie year.
“You have to play fast … but the most important thing is, you have to be aggressive.”
Aggressive. I knew that word.
Steve repeated it over and over, maybe a dozen times. Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive.
It was a lesson I never forgot.
Having a mentor is almost as important for a basketball player as it is for a subpar comedy writer. Yao had Francis, who clearly helped him develop into a presence under the rim. I’ve had Harry Lee, who’s always sure to make me cry if I’m a few dick jokes short of a full gangbang. When the rest of the team is calling you by the wrong name (on purpose, remember), you need someone to keep you on the straight and narrow. The best way to learn the game is from constant mental harassment coupled with one person that’s not hellbent on your psychological destruction. It made Yao a Hall of Fame player and scored him millions of dollars. If anyone wants to debate the positive effects of hazing, that’s about as textbook an example as you can think of..
[via The Players Tribune]
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