Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 Asian Americans Sports Figures of 2010

I actually started this list a couple of weeks ago but couldn't decide whether or not to finish it. Maybe this isn't really the place for this kind of thing but at this point, I'm just gonna post whatever.

Northwest Asian Weekly did their own Top 10 list of Asian American Sports Figures released on December 22 and that is essentially what forced me to revisit this list--that and I told my buddy Keith Chow I would do one. He did a Top 10 list for Asian Americans in Pop Culture at the PopCultureShock blog. It's a solid list but I don't know how Slim Chin doesn't break Top 3. Olivia Munn was my little contribution. You're welcome.

The NWAW list was decent but given the relatively small pool of athletes to choose from, I didn't think ours would be this different. And, no, you can't make Manny an honorary Asian American. I know he's the best Asian athlete in the world--arguably the best athlete hands down--but no, that's cheating.

List after the jump >>>.

10.) Michelle Wie: The 20-year-old now pro golfer didn't make many headlines this year but she was in your consciousness. With ads for Kia, Nike and McDonald's, Wie is the most marketable lady golfer on the LPGA. She is brash and perhaps a bit too arrogant but she is, as Gary Player once said, "the face of women's golf around the world and is as important to the ladies game as Tiger is to the men's." Yea, I got that from Wikipedia.

She did post her second career win at the Canadian Women's Open in August but what is the best little known fact about about Wie? Her "official" website is just a personal blog. It has personal photos, musings, even recipes and very little about golf. I kinda really like this blog. It hasn't been updated since August 2010. []

9.) Tom Nguyen "Asian American MMA Champion": This is what I love about these kinds of lists, sometimes you have to dig deep and you find the obscure sort of thing you would never knowingly look for. Tom Nguyen is the self-proclaimed Asian American MMA Champion. He's has only 7 fights to his name, 6 wins, 1 loss and he's 34 years old. Why he makes the list is that he should really be a YouTube sensation.

A native of Fayetteville, GA, Nguyen is country proud and has a self-deprecating sense of himself. I honestly can't tell if he's serious about this MMA thing or not. But, he's 185 lbs of awesome. It is my goal now to help make Tom Nguyen a household name.

You might actually remember him from way back in '04 on SportsCenter if you have a really, really good memory.

8.) Julie Chu: We should really already know who Chu is, at least the Asian Americans should. Admittedly, I too, had not heard of her until researching this list. She is the first Asian American ever selected for the US Women's National Hockey Team. She is a 3-time Olympian and helped the Nats take home a Silver in 2010. She has led teams to three Gold medals in the World Championships in 2005, 2008 and 2009 respectively. She is an icon in women's hockey.

7.) Rich Cho: The man was an intern with the Seattle Supersonics. He moved his way up the Sonics franchise, even moving to Oklahoma City where he helped make the Thunder legit. This year, Paul Allen chose him to be General Manager of the Portland Trailblazers, the first Asian American ever to assume the role. Not bad for an intern. That would be a nod to my brother, Aaron, interning with Morey and the Rockets.

6.) Apolo Ohno: Yes, history was made this year at the Winter Olympics when Ohno became America's most decorated winter athlete. Sadly, I can count on one hand how many people actually knew that. The criteria for my list had as much to do with influence as prowess. Ohno was the king last year during his Dancing With the Stars stint, he would have been Top 3 then. He'll have to settle for bottom 5 now.

5.) Patrick Chung: The second year safety has been one of the key pieces of a young New England Patriots defense that has the Pats poised to return to the Super Bowl. Well, that and Tom Brady. Chung can be a dazzling play-maker on defense, which he displayed on national television Week 4 on Monday Night Football. He tallied 5 tackles, a blocked punt, blocked FG, and an INT which he returned 51 yards for a touchdown. Chung narrowly missed being selected to the Pro Bowl in which he was 2nd in his position in fan votes.

I should also mention Ed Wang, who was drafted in the 5th rd by the Buffalo Bills. Wang is not the first Chinese American to be drafted as the NFL seems to insist. He may be the first non-bi-racial Chinese American but Kailee Wong and even Patrick Chung have Chinese ancestry. But really, I brought up Wang for the Wang-Chung reference, something ESPN couldn't stay away from either.

4.) Eric Spoelstra: This might get a little basketball heavy for obvious reasons... Spoelstra has gotten his share of knocks early in the 2010-11 NBA season but as with all things in sports, winning heals. You got to give it up for a virtual unknown who stands his ground against superstar egos like Lebron James and Chris Bosh to a lesser extent. It helps that Pat Riley has his back and has showed no signs of pulling the Stan Van Gundy out from under him, yet.

Nevertheless, Spoelstra is in the national spotlight whether he likes it or not and will remain under intense scrutiny win or lose for as long as he coaches this Heat team. Heck of a way to become a household name.

3.) Tim Lincecum: The kid looks like freshman Mitch Kramer in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused and he can sure throw a baseball. "The Freak" aka "The Franchise" has already won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. But, 2010 was his best year yet, leading his San Francisco Giants to their first World Series title in 56 years.

Lincecum out-dueled Roy Halladay in the NLDS and won two games in the Series including the Game 5 clincher. Oh, and he had one of the year's best ESPN promos. Big Time Timmy Jim, what's up!

2.) Tiger Woods: Oh, you forgot the man was Asian, huh? Mr. Woods is almost always the most influential Asian American in sports at any time but this year, he gets knocked down a peg, just one peg, for the particular kind of influence he had on the sports world.

But, according to Tiger himself, he's getting it together, even hitting the internets via Twitter ( to get the word out that he will be back to form in 2011. And if there's any question of the validity of Tiger's Asian-ness, heed only his tweet that he can, "barely grow a goatee." Yup, that's the Asian side.

1.) Jeremy Lin: No previously unknown athlete has galvanized Asian American sports fans more than Lin has in 2010. Through an inspiring run at Harvard, to an unlikely NBA summer league performance against John Wall, to a guaranteed contract with the Golden State Warriors, Lin has had quite a year. It has to be the most attention an undrafted NBA rookie averaging 1.9 ppg and 0.9 assists as ever gotten.

Warriors games, which I shouldn't have to mention are in close proximity to the country's largest Asian American population in San Francisco, have been so raucous when Lin is on the floor that he actually prefers to play on the road. It's far less pressure claims the rookie. Lin will be getting some relief now as he has since been moved to the NBDL to polish up his game. Nevertheless, garnering a guaranteed NBA contract as an Ivy-Leaguer is no small feat but as the rare Asian American to do so, it might have been worth all the hubbub.

No comments: