Shaq says Yao comments were said in jestPosted: Friday January 10, 2003 10:47 PM
Updated: Friday January 10, 2003 11:14 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal said he was joking, not being a racist, when he used a mock Chinese accent while talking about Houston center Yao Ming.
A columnist for AsianWeek complained in his newspaper that O'Neal made several derogatory comments recently about Yao, with the Lakers' center saying, "Tell Yao Ming, 'ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh."'
"I said it jokingly, so this guy was just trying to stir something up that's not there. He's just somebody who doesn't have a sense of humor, like I do. I don't have to have a response to that (the charges of racism) because the people who know me know I'm not," O'Neal said Friday before Los Angeles' game against Cleveland.
"I mean, if I was the first one to do it, and the only one to do it, I could see what they're talking about. But if I offended anybody, I apologize."
Yao, asked about the comments prior to Houston's game at Atlanta, said he believed O'Neal was joking.
"There are a lot of difficulties in two different cultures understanding each other. Especially two very large countries. The world is getting smaller and I think it's important to have a greater understanding of other cultures. I believe Shaquille O'Neal was joking but I think that a lot of Asian people don't understand that kind of joke," Yao said.
"Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little," Yao joked.
O'Neal recently received an NAACP Young Leaders Award.
He acknowledged that his attempts at humor don't always work.
"Over my 11 years in the NBA, I know for a fact that most of you guys are going to write what you want to write, and it's our job to either defend it or just let it go. At times I try to be a comedian," he said. "Sometimes I make a good joke and sometimes it's a bad joke.
"That's just the ups and downs of trying to be a comedian."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was certain O'Neal was just kidding.
"It's an unfortunate situation. I'm sure that Shaq had no meaning like that behind it. I'm sure he was just doing something that was fun-loving or something he thought was humorous," Jackson said.
"The meeting between Shaq and Yao Ming next Friday (in Houston ) is going to be an interesting one, anyway, so it should bring a lot of interest to the game."
Yao is leading O'Neal for the starting Western Conference center spot in fan balloting for the NBA All-Star game.