Yao Ming is an awesome guy, there’s no two ways about it. He came to the United States to represent the biggest country in the world (one admittedly not particularly loved here in the US) and came out a beloved celebrity by everyone, including Shaq, his biggest rival.
Amidst all of his dominance, physically and statistically, you would watch his game and see that, yes, here is a competitor, but also someone who wasn’t doing it in a selfish or flashy way. As Yao admitted firsthand in a new interview with Graham Bensinger (one of our favorite interviewers), dunking came very easy to him. I mean, he was 7’3″ at the age of 17. All he has to do is raise his hands above his head.
But still, it was something he never felt comfortable doing at a young age, specifically because he didn’t want to embarrass anyone. So one of his AAU coaches came up with a pretty cruel (but effective) way of making Yao dunk in his games. Check out how he got the team player to finally come around in the video below:
If you want to see more of the “In Depth Interview with Graham Bensinger” interview do yourself a favor and subscribe to his YouTube channel, or just peep the segments on his page here. Graham’s been doing some great interviews with key sports figures (including Shaq’s which are fantastic).
Also just because we’re talking about Yao Ming in AAU, here’s a photo of him playing back in those days for the San Diego-based team High 5 America.
In his first game of the Peach Jam he went 7-11 for 20 points, 9 rebounds, and three blocks. His coach told reporters that Yao didn’t have to get used to playing with anyone, it was his teammates who needed to get used to playing with him.
“‘The issue is not him integrating,’ coach Rle Nichols said. ‘It’s us integrating. It’s us learning how to play with a big man.”’ [source]