Yao Ming is a retired Chinese professional basketball player who played for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association. At the time of his final season, he was the tallest active player in the NBA, at 2.29 m. As of 2014, he is the 31st tallest person alive. Yao, who was born in Shanghai, China, started playing for the Shanghai Sharks as a teenager, and played on their senior team for five years in the Chinese Basketball Association, winning a championship in his final year. After negotiating with the CBA and the Sharks to secure his release, Yao was selected by the Houston Rockets as the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft. Yao was selected to start for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game eight times, and was named to the All-NBA Team five times. He reached the NBA Playoffs four times, and the Rockets won a first-round series in the 2009 postseason, their first playoff series victory since 1997. In July 2011, Yao announced his retirement from professional basketball due to a series of foot and ankle injuries which forced him to miss 250 games in his last six seasons.
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My latest project is the Animal Planet special SAVING AFRICA’S GIANTS WITH YAO MING, airing next Tuesday November 18 at 10 PM eastern / pacific.
In the show I travel to Africa to see firsthand the consequences of poaching and work with advocates there to help save wildlife.
Victoria is assisting me in-person today along with a translator. AMA!
Update: Well, I would like to thank everyone to spend time with me. And thanks for the questions, I had a lot of questions, a lot were quite interesting. And I hope everyone can pay attention on the show on Animal Planet for the film we brought back from Africa, 10 pm next Tuesday east coast time!
And spread the message of IvoryFree.org for us. Thank you!
Hello, Mr. Ming.
An important question to all of Reddit: Is the average headphone cable long enough to put your iPod in your pocket?
Oh! I don't use iPhone much, hahahaha!
I'm an old guy.
The cords work okay. We find a way.
Yao use iPad as phone?
I just use a regular phone! If I can't, I will go back to Nokia.
Is the story about Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Motumbo eating at your parents restaurant true?
Hahaha! they did once! A LONG time ago.
Hello Yao! I'm a longtime Rockets fan and your career with us and your passionate conservation efforts have made you my favorite NBA player of all time
What efforts are you currently undertaking to lower the ivory demand in China and other parts of east Asia? Are the outlooks promising so far?
That's why I'm doing this, basically.
It's the numbers, and also, those pictures. Especially after I visited Africa. Seeing the images over there of the consequence, the life lost there, both animal and human because rangers get shot trying to fight poachers - it really hurts.
I think the best effective way for us is to spread message - having more people knowing what's happening in Africa, and what are the consequences when there are animal products on the market, what is the cost of that. And of course, if you can join us in stopping buying those products, that is very helpful.
I mean, that's what we believe in and that's why we made this film. People always say that the stories stop them. The words, and the numbers, they keep a distance, and it's hard to get people's attention. You need a film, the pictures, to bring them there. Not really THERE but get them into the story, getting them caring.
Hey Yao! Big fan here!
Is it true that your parents were encouraged to marry each other?
How was your early training in China?
No, that's not true. I started playing basketball for fun at 9 years old. Just for fun.
What do you miss most about Houston?
Yao - thank you so much for taking the time to do this. What is the coolest place you've traveled to? And what is top of your list to go to next??
Coolest place I ever visited anywhere in the world?
I think it's Athens.
And I really want to go to Crete, in Greece.
History stuff, you know!
Dear Mr. Yao, good afternoon,
Thank you for being such a large part of my basketball memories, I’m a huge fan of yours and you had a tremendous impact on me as a 1.5 generation Chinese in the USA. As a post-80 (80后) child I was there when Jordan-mania was at its peak but never became interested in basketball until early 2000s, coincidentally the same period when you were introduced to Americans and then drafted into the NBA. I’ll ask my questions first and then post the sappy stuff in the end so you and Reddit won’t be bored.
We hear a lot about your personality and how beloved you are in and out of the NBA, as well as your humanitarian efforts. On the contrary there is surprisingly little info about your basketball thoughts, only that your favorite player was the great…ARVYDAS SABONIS and that you even named your Counterstrike account after him. My questions are:
Was your playing style in the NBA what you envisioned the ideal version of yourself (as a basketball player) to be? What part of the game were you still looking to improve before retiring?
Can you describe your vision of perfect basketball? If you are given free rein to build a basketball team, what would it be like?
We know you played CS and WoW, what games are you playing these days?
Thank you for your time. ( 如果比较方便你可以用中文回答，谢谢！)
And now the boring stuff:
As I said, I am a huge fan. Here is me dressed up as you on Halloween ’11. One of my favorite teenage memories was winter time 2003, YAO VS SHAQ. This event had been brewing for months and failed to materialize because Shaq hurt his big toe or something (Kobe might remember better). Our little “Asian posse” in high school were all so excited about you in the NBA and followed your news religiously, I remember there was a full page ad of “Yao vs Shaq” in the New York Times. During winter holiday, we gathered at a friend’s house over winter holiday to watch the up and coming Rockets play the mighty Los Angeles Lakers. We cheered when you successfully blocked Shaq in the first few plays of the game, when Stevie Franchise made the crucial pull-up three, screamed at the TV (I forgot how many times) “GIVE YAO THE BALL!!!” (this will continue throughout the course of your career every time I watched you on TV) and all smiled when your calm-emotion dad finally smiled, stood up, and clapped when you had the dunk near the end of the game.
The “Tracy McGrady game” was another moment which as Bill Simmons described, “remembered where-I-was, who-I-was-with and what-I-was-doing moment”. FYI I was in my dorm room (917 Clement Hall, University at Buffalo), with my roommate and engineering friend, we were doing a physics lab report for the same class. We yelled so loud at the end of the game that we got a warning from our RA.
I remember your various hurdles coming and developing in the NBA, missing a point blank dunk, Stephon Marbury crossover, etc. You faced a lot of criticisms and was a target because of your height, being the #1 pick, and at least 0.01% because you were foreign. Yet you never wavered from being a nice guy, you didn’t fire back with insults or retaliated with cheap shots on the floor but simply continued to work hard, showed the results of hard work on the court, while continue to show others what a genuinely nice guy you are (obviously, I only know from what other people who have met you say). Until the entire league realized and acknowledged you as a supremely fine human being.
I saw a parallel in my own life, I came to the US when I was 12 from Hong Kong, I had many bitter memories in American middle school of being picked on physically and verbally because I was foreign. It was very difficult to not strike back in anger every time I hear an insult about me and my people. Even though by the time your first NBA game came, I was already in my final year in high school and these incidents had stopped, the way you handled these types of obstacles really gave me hope that it was possible to overcome hate in such a way as you did. Thank you for your inspiration and it is a lesson I do my best to practice.
Finally, I hope you enjoyed your visits to Hong Kong, I was so jealous when my HK friends got to see you!
Thank you so much for doing this AMA, it’s probably the closest I have to meeting a hero.
EDIT: I'm so happy right now I can't hide my grin in the office. YAO MING responded to me!!!!!
Well, honestly, when I just came here, I did not expect that. Of course after a couple years i got some confidence, I hoped i could go farther. But injury stopped me, and some other shortcomings stopped me. But what I can say is that I had to move on - you just need to learn experience from the past, whatever the skill or attitude or vision, just learn from it, and move on.
My ideal team would be the Spurs. San Antonio Spurs.
CS! Wow, that's a dinosaur game. I don't really play much game today.
How was it working with Animal Planet?
I like you guys! So far so good!
What do you think is your single greatest accomplishment/achievement so far in your life?
If you met a poacher, what would you say to him or her?
Wow, that's hard.
I wouldn't know what to say to them.
You know, the poacher sometimes is doing this just to live. And it can be very easy to tell them don't poach anymore, but you have to consider what are they doing to live? So the entire chain needs to be changed - from the beginning we have to stop the buying.
The poacher is the very end of a chain. They do the dirty work, they do the most dangerous work, they have to kill the animal, but on the other hand side, they are being killed by rangers too. They are very poor too. So I hope they can find safety and live and do another job besides poaching.
I don't know if it's fair enough to say, because some poachers are poor people too, they are doing it for money. So if we cannot improve their life and society and help them understand that animal tourism benefits them, going there to do safaris drives, that kind of financial support can build a society, school, hospital.
But if they kill the animal, there are no more visitors going there. The economics will crash, sooner or later. It's very complicated.
What's your favorite sea animal?
What is the best and worst thing about being over seven feet tall?
Best thing and worst thing?
Best things... best thing is, I think the air is better, with the altitude, you know?
The worst thing, probably, people can see me from 100 yards away. That's why it's a good place for me in Texas, there's a lot of tall people there. Everything's bigger in Texas!
Hi, Yao. What is your favourite videogame?
I don't play very much video games now. I play Starcraft once in a while? You know, get on for 30 minutes, an hour. I used to play World of Warcraft, that was maybe 5,6 years ago, I'm long gone from there.
Mr. Ming how are you doing today? My question is if you could be any animal wich one would you be?
Thanks for the AMA Mr. Ming.
Hmm. Interesting. Never thought about that.
Maybe a whale? Yeah. Giant, peaceful, in the water, almost the same lifetime as humans. If you wanted a long life, imagine yourself a turtle.
Hey Yao, when you were in the NBA did you have any specific pregame rituals?
Well, like superstitious stuff? I never shaved 24 hours before a game.
But I did change underwear! I know some baseball guys...
Hi, Yao, I really admire your decision to return to your studies after basketball. What has been the most challenging part of going back to school?
Back to school?
Well, when we played on the court, usually we are the most talented, biggest, dominating players, but when you're in class, you are not the tallest anymore. You have to listen to professors and tons of geniuses surround you - I don't know what their brain is made of, but their IQ must be 150-something.
Hi Mr. Ming. Do you feel culture want or money is more the determining factor/influence for poachers in Africa or even other forms such as whaling and shark hunting?
Poachers are driven by money, those guys are not collectors, but they need money. When there's a market, there's a money flow, of course we have people to do the dirty work.
Yao, if you could organize a 5v5 all star game to support wildlife, would you play?
Current active players, or retired?
Hey Yao, thanks for the AMA.
How did you feel the first time you played against Shaq?
Ni Hao, Yao!
How was golfing with John Daly?
That's the same question as "how you feel back to school!"
What is your favorite meal? And what is your opinion regarding Tex-Mex food?
It is kind of a big deal in Houston!
I'm okay with spicy.
My favorite meal - I still prefer what my wife cook, what my mom cook.
Do you keep in touch with any former NBA teammates? Are you close with any players that you never got a chance to play with?
You know, just 2, 3 nights ago I had dinner with Dikembe Mutombo. A couple weeks ago, i had a dinner with Tracy McGrady. And I talk to Battier this summer a few times on the phone, met him in China, had a chat, a beer, something like that.
Oh! I'm big fan of Brandon Roy. But he and I were both sidelined by an injury. But he's much younger than I.
Hello Yao, thanks for the AMA! Here's a Welcome to reddit lase of you and your beautiful family! Link Now for the question: The NBA is incredibly popular in China right now. How much of that popularity do you think is due to your success in the NBA?
That's hard for me to say, as I'm one guy. But I can tell you yet, before NBA, basketball already existed in China. Only 4 years after Dr. James Naysmith created basketball, it was in China, and of course, NBA entered China in the late 1980's, so we could watch NBA games on TV since the early 90s, at least 10 years before i came to the league. So it was already popular.
And thank you for the beautiful picture, I know the story behind that picture, the day of my retirement, so thanks for doing that, yeah.
I am very interested in your work trying to raise conservation awareness among Chinese consumers. Could you shine some light on the mentality that fuels the market for endangered products? At least when it comes to China, I don't feel like I have a good grasp of how much of the demand comes from...
a. desperation for a product and a sincere belief that it will work is magic? (The tiger eye really will moderate my epileptic child's seizures).
b. desperation to project status? (Even if red panda hats aren't really "lucky", those suitors won't marry the daughter of a man who can't afford a red panda hat).
c. lack of understanding that the resource will run out? (Africa is huge, rhinos are powerful, and it's just a few rhino horns...nature will take care of itself).
d. lack of concern that the resource will run out? (I just want this shark fin soup, how it gets here isn't my problem, and future generations will just have to deal with it).
e. defeatism? (The elephants are doomed because other people won't change their behavior. So there is no point in changing mine).
Of course, we have some similar issues in the West (such as with use of antibiotics). But the motivation of the Chinese consumers still often seems like a mystery to me.
Most of the consumers who can afford ivory are wealthy and powerful people, and for a long time, I mean, like thousands of years, ivory collecting was something very luxurious, compared to today - it's like if you drove a luxury car, or a fancy car, on the street, like a Ferrari, status symbol.
That's why people buy ivory, they love that. Maybe they cannot afford much, but they know if they can have one, it's something for them that symbolizes achievement. But we have to believe that today the world has really changed. A lot of new generation of Chinese people, especially as they get more money and power, they don't like that kind of achievement anymore. They don't like collecting things like that. I see a lot of guys, during the conservation and environment protection work, doing foundations to support areas. They are more looking to do more good things for society instead of their own good. That is a good sign, that is a very good sign. Of course we have a long way to go, a lot of people to educate, but I believe we are on the right direction.
Hey Mr. Ming,
I am 6'4 and after long periods of not seeing someone they always say "you've gotten taller!" Do you experience this as well? It is quite annoying.
First of all... is this a he or she?
My wife is 6 feet 2 inches.
I would say - no, I stopped growing. Maybe you go opposite!
What was the hardest transition for you, when you first moved from China to play basketball as a Houston Rocket?
Coach conflict, from East into West. Language is a problem for me, too. People forget how fit you have to be in the NBA, that's our job.
Hi Yao. Hope you're doing well today.
My question: What can we do to help save wildlife without any money?
Spread the message! And if you don't have money to buy ivory, that's already the biggest help you can give. And if you DO have that money, spend it on something else other than ivory.
What inspired you to become a basketball player?
What inspired me?
If people can do something after their parents, it is such a great honor. It's not that many anymore in China, you can have a ton of selection now, but my parents were basketball players, and I could do something after them, and that inspired me in the beginning.
What has been your favorite part of your latest project?
Who is your favorite basketball player from the 70s and 80s?
My favorite part of that? You know, we spent time at the elephant orphanage in Kenya, yeah. We have a good time there. Of course it's sad, because all those baby elephants lost their mom, but we had a chance to take a close look and spend some time with them, and even feed them. I really didn't know who was feeding who! They were bigger than us!
70's to 80's? Honestly, NBA was not live in China until the 90's, so I have limited knowledge until that time. I can give some names but I have no idea how they played - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in the 70's and 80's. And also Kyle Robinson. I spent time with Bill Russell sometimes. Very limited imagery and video I watched from that age.
Yao, you purchased the Shanghai Sharks in 2010, the same team you played for as a teenager. Do you still see the same people from your past from time to time? If you could offer your team a meal that you knew most of them would love, what would you cater to them?
Uh... I think the old athletes in China preferred, you know, buffets! Haha! That's what I like to eat when I played for the Sharks. It's quick and easy and you can eat whatever you want. Sometimes I see old friends.
Do you watch any other sports besides Basketball?
Hello Mr. Ming,
What do you like to eat for breakfast? Care to share any simple recipes? :D
Not a big fan of breakfast cereal.
I mean, I eat it, but it's not my first choice. Chinese-style breakfast would be my first choice. Rice cereal, some chinese pancakes, some shanghai fried dough.
Fermented tofu. It's a local speciality.
Hardest question of the day!
What inspires you to be so involved with wildlife?
Wild Aid came to me in late 2005, they came to me with ideas and those research numbers and some PSAs shot by Jackie Chan, who is a hero of us when we were children, definitely that was very attractive for me, doing something after him. Animals for me are not just... I don't have a pet, but I always feel animals are like friends, whom I can communicate with. They are very smart, especially elephants. We spent time with them. They have character. It's not just - if you have 100 elephants together, you can definitely find differences with them, it's not like one elephant with one personality. They are smart enough to know who has been good to them, who is their enemy, and some elephants like to play with you, others can be a little bit shy and hide behind a tree.
And they have a curiosity too.
Besides Shanghai and Houston, what are your favorite places in China and the United States?
In China, besides Shanghai, I really love Sanya. It's a city on an island. It's our Hawai. And Philadelphia in the US. Because of museums, the buildings, the history and philly cheesesteak.
What is your favorite African animal? What was the most powerful experience you had working with wildlife in Africa?
Zebra. So beautiful.
Before we finished our trip, in Kenya, we were getting to the headquarters of the Kenya Wildlife Service, that organization, to organize the rangers and also the customs people, and they found those tusks - they found packages from luggage and they take those back, and they are all put in a small room, maybe 3 or 4 times the size of this room here.
And I went there, there must be hundreds of tusks in there, sized from really big, some of them from full-grown elephants, and some very small, like as big as my hand.
Well my hand is big, but small for a tusk.
When you are standing there, watching this, seeing how many lives have been lost there...
And the poachers don't care about all how old an elephant is, they will kill any elephant.
That's the strongest memory.
The worst one.
That room is in the film, actually.
What do you say to someone when you see in their home a piece of Ivory?
Yes, I did mention it a few times actually. And not just individual houses, but company offices, when they have ivory there. I will tell them that I know you may buy this a long time ago, hopefully you treat this right, and change your attitude for the future.
Hi Yao, would you ever consider coaching in their in the NBA, CBA, or Europe?
Not in current plan. Not my current plan.
What is something the world does not know about you?
People know almost EVERYTHING about me.
Where you expected to play basketball as a child because of your height?
No. The basketball passion didn't come to me until 17 or 18. I played since i was 9, but I played to have something to do.