Ohm Youngmisuck wrote Monday about the impact on new Hall of Famer Yao Ming, about how he changed the game, bringing America's homegrown game to Asia in ways not previously imagined. But the ESPN writer also talks about the impact on NBA players who thought they were big.
Brook Lopez recalled to Youngmisuck what his first encounter with the 7'6" Yao was like. As a rookie in 2008.
"I think that was the smallest that I've ever felt," the 7-foot, 275-pound Lopez says. "Going up for the jump ball and then I do my first hook and he blocked it so easily. It was like nothing to him. It was really really a unique experience. I can't compare it to anything else."
For Lopez, that was just an introduction. Over the course of his NBA career, Lopez has been to China multiple times, including two preseason trips with the Nets in 2010 and 2014, and sponsor tours with adidas. He also played two seasons next to Yao's Team China teammate, Yi Jinlian. The Chinese know Lopez and Lopez knows Chinese basketball.
"They know everything about the game," says Lopez. "It is incredible. It is definitely not crazy to say that they are even crazier about basketball than we are here. It is amazing. There are so many different media publications, so many people following it. They really do love the game."
And the era of Chinese big men is not over. Among possible second round picks this season: Zhou Qi, a 7'2" 20-year-old.