Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Yao Line 12.01.07: Yao's Inner 'Sheed

37:11 min | 29 pts | 8-15 FGs | 13-13 FTs 11 rebs 1 ast | 2 blks | 3 TOs | 6 PFs | recap

Houston didn't look very good in this one. Yao and T-Mac were solid enough on offense but defensively, the Rockets as a team couldn't stop Sacramento from doing basically anything they wanted on offense. It was a tough one to watch, but it was interesting to see Yao get fired up at the officiating, even if it was after they had already preposterously fouled him out.

I didn't get to fact check this, but I believe this is the first time Yao's ever been ejected from a NBA game. I guess this kind of fire is what we've been asking for in Yao, but seeing him react so out of character raised some interesting questions. Isn't what fans, critics and perhaps even coaches want to see from Yao pretty much condemned in this league when acted out by other players, mostly of African American descent. It seems to be a double standard, but in what ways is it relevant? What are the implications of wanting some players to be... let's say spirited, while telling others to be less so?

I even find myself to have some part in this double-standard. Though I don't often think less of players for acting out in games, I'll admit that from Asian American perspective, Yao's act was affirming in a way, maybe even encouraging to see Yao express himself in anger. After all this time of being poorly officiated (as big men often are), he had had enough and felt compelled to show everyone watching that he couldn't take it anymore. No one outside of Sacramento wouldn't fault Yao for throwing in the towel so to speak, but Yao's reaction was actually kind of refreshing. It carried the idea that a man's nature does change; but also, the notion that maybe that was never Yao's nature to begin with and not a completely valid stereotype. We've seen increasing increments of Yao's change (or perhaps release) from what was once thought to be a cultural and bound passivity over the past few years. And though it was just one ejection for a fairly innocuous act, could it finally be the tipping point for a more spirited Yao?

Maybe I'm over-thinking it. I mean, how constructive has acting out about the officiating ever been? It's always seemed to work better for players when you take it out on your opponents and let the officials sort it out. But we'll see soon enough whether this is a sign of Yao letting out his inner 'Sheed. And what that means for the NBA, it's image and it's millions of Chinese fans.

For now, it's still the fire on the hardwood and toward the opposing team that we need to see. Yao's already an immense presence off the court. He says all the right things, puts the onus on himself night in and night out and takes the blame when the team doesn't perform up to par. Yao's continuing growth still needs to translate that in his presence on the court. Last night's outburst might have been a step in the right direction. And then, it might not.

Yao Ming Mania has your pics.

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