Yi should meet his match
Milwaukee actually a good fit for Chinese draft pick
Posted: Wednesday July 4, 2007 11:29AM; Updated: Wednesday July 4, 2007 5:23PM
Milwaukee has a Chinese Kung Fu Center.
Milwaukee, according to Superpages.com, has 48 Chinese restaurants. The city's got a Chinese sports bar, a China Council and a new Academy of Chinese Language sitting right smack in a low-income, largely black neighborhood.
All that's missing is a 19-year-old, 6-foot-11 Chinese man.
"Milwaukee's a great city for Yi," said Paul Wong, proprietor of that aforementioned sports bar, Long Wongs. "He's got to know it's about quality, not quantity."
And, oh, there is a difference.
Yi Jianlian became the sixth overall pick in the NBA Draft last Thursday when the Milwaukee Bucks practically squealed his name to David Stern. General manager Larry Harris' dad, Del, coached Yi at the 2004 Olympics, the kid was a double-double-averaging stud for the Guangdong Tigers last year, and Greg Oden might not have had the city of Milwaukee so personally pumped. Because, see, it's not only the 10,000 people in Milwaukee originally from China, Taiwan or Hong Kong who are into China -- it's the whole city. Which makes all this Steve Francis-inspired posturing pretty ugly. And totally unfair.
"It does kind of make me mad," Wong said.
Compared to Dirk Nowitzki, likened to Toni Kukoc, Yi is supposed to be China's best prospect this side of Yao Ming. Only, before the draft, Yi's American agent, Dan Fegan, wouldn't bring Yi to Milwaukee. Fegan didn't let the Bucks come to any of Yi's workouts. Word was Milwaukee's Chinese population wasn't big enough. Now, Yi's Chinese agent, Zhao Gang, is confirming it, saying, "We feel that the Bucks are not the best fit for Yi," while promising he is lobbying other teams to trade for his client. Fegan is neither softening Zhao's words nor returning phone calls.
If only he were checking out Milwaukee.
"If he'd come here and get a sense of Milwaukee, I think he'd see this is one of the best fits for Yi," said Ulice Payne, who knows a bunch about basketball (he was a forward on Marquette's 1977 national title team) and maybe even more about China (he's co-chair of the city's China Counsel and, as a lawyer with a Chinese office, is a regular on American's 13-hour Chicago-to-Shanghai flight).
Truth is, as long as that rumored 1984 birthday is just a rumor, Milwaukee has been into China longer than Yi has been shaving.
In 2003, Marquette and UW-Milwaukee forged a partnership with the Shanghai Second Medical University. The next year, the chamber of commerce's China Council made its first group trip to China. In October 2005, Mayor Tom Barrett led a delegation to Ningbo, China, and signed a sister city agreement with his counterpart there. The next April, Milwaukee-based Harley Davidson opened a dealership on Fourth Ring Road in Beijing. And in May 2006, Ningbo officials came to Milwaukee for a visit with the city's business leaders.