The Houston Rockets recently returned to the U.S. after a lengthy trip to China for the preseason. Lots of teams and players have been traveling abroad to help promote the NBA, but things are different when the Rockets make a trip. When Houston goes to China, they bring center Yao Ming who is one of the most well-known athletes in the world. The Chinese center is a god back home. Don’t believe me? Just let some of his teammates tell it:
Patrick Patterson: “When we first got off the plane in Beijing and went through customs, they had big signs all around that said you’re not allowed to take pictures in that area. But then you’ve got security guards, police officers and all the people behind desks taking pictures of Yao. So I picked up the sign and walked right beside Yao holding it– and they just kept taking pictures (laughs). Obviously the rules didn’t apply when Yao was there, so I think that’s a great indication of how much he means to China.”
Can’t say you’re surprised, can you? What’s incredible is how popular the Rockets are as a team in China, and how Yao’s hero status has resulted in his teammates becoming popular as well. Tracy McGrady used to have one of the best selling jerseys in the league because he was Yao’s teammate for so long, and now Shane Battier says he’s become a popular player because of the association. Battier also noted that the chemistry on the team is incredible and that it could take them to the next level. I love the optimism Shane, but there is still a ton of work to be done. I’ll keep the sentiment in mind as we watch Houston’s season unfold.