Posted: Friday September 30, 2005 3:52PM; Updated: Friday September 30, 2005 6:22PM
Of Yao and Mao
Most NBA fans already know that 7-5 Rockets center Yao Ming's parents were basketball stars back in China. They may even have heard that his mother, Fang Fengdi, stands 6-2 and that his father, Yao Zhiyuan, has been listed as anywhere from 6-7 to 6-10. Some might even know that Yao was 23 inches long at birth and weighed 11.2 pounds.
But how many fans know that Yao's mom was once a teen-aged member of Mao's "Red Guard," the zealous civilian corps of Communists who were the frontline implementers of the Cultural Revolution? How many know that she later played a major role in shaping Yao's NBA career, often battling the Chinese government to allow him the freedom to make his own career choices? Or that she and her husband still live (part-time) with their son in a five-bedroom house in Houston, and that Yao Zhiyuan once got a ticket in the U.S. for driving too slowly on the expressway?
It's all part of a new book, The Creation of Yao Ming, excerpts of which appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of Sports Illustrated. The book's author, Brook Larmer, makes the case that Yao's life has been shaped largely by the conflicting forces of his strong mother and the Chinese government. It's an interesting read, and in some ways helps shed light on Yao's puzzling lack of a mean streak.
Vegas likes the Spurs in '06
While in Las Vegas for a bachelor party/vacation last weekend, my traveling companions and I were warned by a friendly cab driver that TV cameras were everywhere in Sin City. "They've got 'em on the street corners, in the hotel lobbies, in the elevators, in the taxis ..."
As my friend Kramden said: "So much for the notion that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas".
I guess I won't feel so bad then about revealing that the Spurs (2:1), Heat (5:1), Pistons (5:1) and Suns (5:1) are the favorites to win the '06 NBA title, according to the Bellagio Race & Sports Book (as of Sept. 19).
The Mavs (10:1), Pacers (10:1), Nuggets (12:1), Rockets (15:1), Nets (15:1), Kings (15:1) and Sonics (15:1) round out the main challengers. At the other end of the court, the Hawks and Hornets were each listed at 300:1.