One of the most surprising things about being here in Beijing is the absence of Yao Ming. I thought he'd be everywhere. Sure, he made his name in Shanghai, but I thought he was the pride of China. Well, apparently not. Aside from a Coca Cola ad on an occasional billboard and a wildlife poster, Yao isn't a force here.
I guess it shouldn't be a surprise. Every year, the NBA releases its top jersey sales bought on the Chinese version of NBA.comand Yao isn't tops. The last data we had, he was sixth behind the likes of LeBron Jamesand Houston Rocket teammate Tracy McGrady.
When I went to watch some Beijing youth playing basketball, I saw a Paul Pierce jersey, a Penny Hardaway (Magic) jersey and a Steve Nash jersey. No Yao.
I did a little informal poll and found out that while in France you'll find more Tony Parker jerseysand in Argentina you'll find more Manu Ginobili shirts. There's a massive part of the Chinese culture that seeks to embrace the Western heros and brands more than their own.
It's why those Chinese who have the choice because of their financial situation look up to Nike and Adidas brands before they look to their local shoe maker, Li-Ning.
So while it's nice that Yao turned into a a pretty good player, the Chinese might prefer to chose to dream to be more like Dwyane Wade or Michael Jordan for that matter. Yes, pictures of Jordan--I believe from the 1998 NBA Finals--are still on most of the Gatorade bottles around here.
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