The Best Center Is Made in China
By Mike Wise Sunday, December 10, 2006; Page E01
In New York last month to play the Knicks, Yao Ming spoke with Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the United Nations. When Jeff Van Gundy walked by, the 7-foot-6 center introduced the coach of the Houston Rockets to the diplomat.
"Jeff," Yao said, "this is the guy who's going to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear arms."
The assembled mass broke up laughing, and the best healthy big man in the game kept unloading one-liners.
Yao Ming, the most bashful, 7-foot thing you had ever seen five years ago, now mumbles under his breath and gets the laughs -- just like Shaq.
If you were at Verizon Center last night and saw Yao suction hope out of the arena every time the Wizards got close -- scoring 23 in the fourth quarter alone, hitting every pressurized fallaway jump shot he needed including the clinching basket with 11.1 seconds left -- you were a part of the NBA zeitgeist this season. The year of Yao.
The outsourcing of the most important position in basketball is now complete.
From China has come a better, more skilled and bigger pivot than anything we have to offer at the moment. Except for postseason hardware, Yao is a finished product. Dominant, clutch, self-effacing -- "Maybe one day I'll be good," he said, smiling -- Yao is part of a healthy and rejuvenated Rockets team with real championship potential.