Yao Ming Cares More About the Beijing Olympics than the NBA

And I don’t mean that to be a negative commentary about the man. His statement at the press conference on Tuesday sort of slipped under the radar for me. Upon incurring a season-ending stress fracture in his foot, Yao said it would be the biggest loss in his career if he were to miss out on the Olympics because of the injury. Here he is, in a country where most of the top stars decline an invitation to play for team USA, and he’s saying that not representing his country would be the biggest disappointment for him. That’s insane. It makes news headlines for us when a star NBA player says he will play for the U.S. — this news is incredibly difficult for us to comprehend.

So now I pose the question to you: is Yao off base in his thinking or does he have his priorities straight? Was his statement a noble one? Is being patriotic more important than being there for one’s NBA team? Have I lost complete sight of proper values by thinking players’ commitments to their NBA teams are more important than how the country performs in the Olympics? I just don’t think the Olympic team is a big deal for us; everyone already knows the best basketball is played in the U.S., what else do we have to prove? But for Yao, I can see why this would be a disappointment. He represents what, the largest country in the world? He was their hero, their savior? Possibly their largest international sportsman when the Olympics happen to be in his home country? I can see why this would be a major disappointment for him — he has the weight of his nation on his shoulders. I understand his comment and think most of it stems from patriotic pressure. I do have to say though that I don’t think it means our players have their priorities out of whack.

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  • Gene

    If you are familiar with the history of Yao and the Chinese government, you might recall that he needed their permission to even play in the NBA, and that it was conditional on his continuing to play for the Chinese international team.

    China is not a democracy, by any stretch of the imagination. Yao has to be politically correct by saying that he regrets missing the Olympics most of all. To say otherwise might jeopardize his, and other Chinese players’ ability to play NBA ball.

    Chinese players are not free to make the choices that US players are. This is one of the great differences between a free society and one that is not free.

  • http://baseballmastermind.com/baseball/rotogod-sleepers-deep-sleepers-fantasy-baseball-2008/ Alan

    If Yao wasn’t being paid millions in the US, it would be noble. I understand where he’s coming from–representing one’s country is a proud thing, but its kind of like skipping a day at the office to watch the World Cup. No, that’s EXACTLY what it is. Rockets fans can’t be too happy, but they can’t be too mad either.

  • Manny

    flip the script, what if China had the worlds premier basketball league and LeBron played there and got hurt. the olympics are around the corner and they are being held in Atlanta, if LeBron would have made the exact same comments as Yao he would be considered an American Patriot for his love of the country, but when a non-american shows his love and pride for their birth country people here jump on them. Such arrogant american BS, i just say get over it…

  • h09sier

    I think it’s great. This is how it should be, in my opinion. I understand you’re getting paid money to play basketball, and it’s your job. But pride in your country should take precedence over that. I think it’s embarrassing when our players skip out because they’re afraid to injure themselves and miss out on the NBA season. The priorities are all screwed up. It should be a joy and the highest honor to represent your country on the national stage. I wish all American NBA players wanted to play, then we could show the world we are as dominant as ever. I do think we have something to prove. And I really wish our best players didn’t need to be begged to think the same way.

  • Ace

    I agree with manny and ho9sier, i mean it wasn’t too long ago that we were bitching that NBA players didn’t want to represent this country in the olympics. So what makes Yao so different? We should be gettin on american players more since it’s this country that’s given them the opportunity to make the millions that they do, and they’re not proud of that? I’m sorry Larry, but our players do have their priorities out of whack.