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Yao Ming: Houston Rockets called center wrong name rookie year

By Alex Butler
Yao Ming: Houston Rockets called center wrong name rookie year
Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (11) gets ready for a high five as Shane Battier (31) helps up Steve Francis (3) during second half action against the at US Airways Center in Phoenix November 28, 2007. The Rockets defeated the Suns 100-94. (UPI Photo/Art Foxall) | License Photo

HOUSTON, July 20 (UPI) -- "It's not Yao, it's Ming."

Those are the five words Yao Ming was too shy to say during his rookie year with the Houston Rockets.

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As a result, Ming went through the entire season with teammates calling him by his given name. In China, surnames come first and given names come after.

In his post for The Players' Tribune, Ming spoke about his first season and close relationship with former Rockets guard Steve Francis.

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"To my Chinese friends, I was Ming," Ming wrote. "Now I was just Yao. Once everyone started saying it that way, I never corrected them. I was too shy."

Ming went on to describe Francis as "boiling water." He said in Chinese tradition, when you meet someone its like a pot of water that slowly heats up. "I instantly liked him," Ming wrote of Francis.

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He described riding in Francis' Hummer, which struggled to appease Ming in terms of legroom. He also wrote about how Francis constantly harped on him to be aggressive.

Yao says he's 7 feet 4 I think he's 7 foot 8

A photo posted by DR. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Ed.D. (@shaq) on

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"I didn't know this at the time, but before I arrived, the Rockets had hired a Chinese professor from a local university to teach the team about Chinese customs," Ming wrote for the Players' Tribune. "Everyone was so friendly and trying very hard to show me that they knew some things about Chinese culture. They showed me that they even knew little things, like how Chinese people hold a business card with two hands when we exchange it. I laugh when I think about it. At the time, all I wanted was for everyone to treat me the same as any other NBA player. But it was those small things that made me feel their warmth toward me."

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The 7-foot-6 Ming was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball of Fame in 2016. During his rookie year in 2002, Ming averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. He was an All-Star in all eight seasons of his NBA career.

Earlier this month, Jeremy Lin credited Ming for his impact on his career.

"I mean, there's no person that has been impacted more than me," Lin told ESPN. "No other player, no other person, I would say, has been more impacted by what Yao has done than me because I was kind of the one that came right after him."

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