NBA

Yao Ming Yi Jianlian.

November 9 - On this day: Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian changed the NBA forever

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The NBA truly is a global game, and for all the mesmerising dunks and unbelievable shots we are lucky enough to witness during a season, it's the characters and superstars that allow the game to touch all corners of the globe.

Players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry are transcendent players who have gone on to become household names, but even they could not bring basketball to the far reaches of the globe, like Asia.

No, it took a homegrown superstar to do that.

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Yao Ming was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets back in 2002 and the 7'6" Chinese sensation changed the league.

He went on to become an eight-time All-Star before his career was brought to a premature end in 2011 thanks to multiple foot injuries. However, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame over the summer alongside the likes of Allen Iverson and long-time rival Shaquille O'Neal.

For Yi Jianlian, it always felt like the forward was living in Ming's shadow.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers

Sure, he is talented in his own right. As a seven-footer who can moonlight between the four and five spots, Jianlian has the body, the touch and the athleticism to get NBA mouths watering, but for all his achievements in China - where he is a four-time champion and four-time MVP - his superstar status never quite translated to the States.

But, there was plenty of buzz around him when he was drafted sixth overall in the 2007 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He had already been labelled the next Yao Ming and with his compatriot leading a playoff charge for the Rockets, the prospect of them clashing on the court was the talk of the league and, certainly, the talk of China.

On November 9, 2007, the two Chinese giants met in the NBA for the first time. Ming's Rockets would emerge triumphant over Jianlian and the Bucks, 104-88. An estimated 150-250 million Chinese tuned in to watch the live television broadcast.

China's NBA players Yao Ming of the Hous

It was an inconsequential early regular season game, really. Nevertheless, millions of Chinese people got up at 7:30am to proudly watch their two countrymen do battle and shatter previous viewing records for the NBA.

Michael Jordan hadn't attracted that many viewers. Nor Shaq, nor Kobe Bryant and the list goes on.

China supposedly only accounts for about $200 million out of $6 billion in revenue that the NBA enjoys every year, but tapping into a market that boasts 1.3 billion people is sure to pay dividends down the road for the league.

Houston Rockets v Milwaukee Bucks

And yet, they have the two talented men from China to thank. No amount of marketing genius could have done any better.

As it turns out, Ming will go down as a legend of the game averaging 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game during his nine years in the league.

For Jianlian, he had unspectacular spells with the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks that spawned averages of 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds.

TO GO WITH OLY-2008-BASKET-CHN-YAO by Ro

He even signed with the L.A. Lakers this past summer off the back of some pretty impressive Olympic performances, before asking to be waived to return to China before the season even tipped off.

However, neither man's legacy lies in the stat sheet. On this day in 2007, they helped the NBA become the world force we see today.

Topics:
Shaquille O'Neal
NBA
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Milwaukee Bucks
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
Western Conference
Kobe Bryant
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Allen Iverson

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