Yao Ming wrote a short memoir about his rookie year in the NBA. It felt a bit odd reading about a humble, soft-spoken man write about the lessons of aggressive play in the NBA. It was a lesson he learned from his teammate, Steve Francis.
“Steve repeated it over and over, maybe a dozen times. Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. It was a lesson I never forgot.” The former Houston Rockets Center wrote.
He remembers Steve Francis telling him, “You have to play fast… but the most important thing is, you have to be aggressive. Another thing, if you are close enough to the rim to dunk the ball, you better dunk the ball.”
But what made Yao Ming so effective on the basketball court was not his aggression. It was his versatility as a player.
Fans remember him for his soft passing. He was never selfish with the ball; he rebounded well and was an intimidating defender due to his height and reach. He shot well from outside and learned quickly on the low post.
He could be aggressive if necessary. When Jeff Van Gundy took over the helm for the Rockets after coach Tomjanovich resigned due to health reasons, Yao Ming had career highs in points and rebounds.
In 2004, he scored 41 points with 7 assists against the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite the language barrier, Yao Ming proved to be a highly coachable player. Even as he became more popular in the NBA and the world, he didn’t let it affect his personality as a player.
He is the only player outside of the US to lead the NBA All-Star voting. He was the starting center for the West for eight times and was voted to the All-NBA team five times.
The post-Yao Ming shares reflect the contrasting styles between the NBA and Chinese-style of basketball. He says the NBA was more aggressive and faster, while during his years with the Shanghai Sharks the pace of the game slowed down for the big man.
He adapted to the game and did not complain. He was pretty low-key and yet so dominant, and he could be dominant without losing his touch.
Yao Ming teaches us the importance of strength in humility in My Rookie Year.
Photo courtesy: Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons