Box & One With Yi Jianlian

By Wesley Chism Jr.
Updated: December 10, 2007

SEATTLE — I wasn’t around when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers but the stories that my Father has told me are filled with pride and his presence gave hope of the possibilities for African Americans.

Upon watching Yi Jianlian of the Milwaukee Bucks, by way of China, I can imagine that the people back home are very proud of him as well. “This is very exciting for us but we have been here before with the success and expectance of the Houston Rockets, Yao Ming,” stated Shao Liu of USA Sino News.

Yi Jianlian has the following of a rock star and the media coverage to prove it. At press time he has three television stations, along with four different newspapers both from China, in attendance along with the several other American media outlets.

What was truly excited to see was the pride that Yi Jianlian’s countrymen showed every time that he touched the ball. Seated behind me in the luxury box were about 40 Chinese Americans and current Boeing and Microsoft employees that have been waiting all season long to get a glimpse of Yi Jianlian. “We are proud they collectively agreed and are honored by the way in which he carries himself,” they added.

Yi Jianlian is fun to watch and part of an exciting Rookie class that has entered the NBA this season. Oh, let me be perfectly clear, Yi Jianlian is no token; the guy can really play and is better than advertised. He’s got a beautiful stride on the floor and knows exactly where and how to be in scoring position.

The Milwaukee Bucks have taken every step in assisting Yi Jianlian make a comfortable transition into the league. They’ve hired a translator by the name of Matt Beyer who is just as sharp as the Man he represents. “This has been a dream job for me serving as an interpreter in this capacity for the Bucks.”

I was still in high school when I became interested in this career and when I saw Yao Ming interpreter that just sealed the deal for me. I gained a great respect and knowledge of the language while living in Xi’An and Shanghai respectively.

“I was very excited the first time that I put on my Milwaukee Bucks jersey and stepped out on the court after the announcer called my name”, said Yi.I did okay my first game but I’m feeling more comfortably every day.”

It certainly showed that night, after missing two previous three point shots with the game on the line, Yi Jianlian caught the ball at the top of the key and fired another deep three that hit nothing but the bottom of the net to bring the Bucks within four points with 15 seconds to play.

“During the summer I worked on the basic basketball skills, such as passing, playing better defense and my jump shot. The trainers really did a great job of getting me conditioned for the back to back games and mentally prepared for toll that the season can have on your body,” added Yi Jianlian.

There’s a great deal of pressure on him to be successful and the Chinese media is paying a great deal of attention to him. “This is something that I just have to get use to and the environment of playing in the NBA. Nobody expects more of me than I do of myself, I can play in this league and contribute to the success of the Milwaukee Bucks.”

Yi Jianlian credits Michael Jordan as being the biggest influence that got him interested in playing basketball. “His skills were very sound but I believe that he was just as mentally tough which made him a great competitor.”

If the Milwaukee Bucks come to your town, do yourself a favor and get some tickets. Television just doesn’t have the capability to capture it all and I truly do believe that we are in the stages of witnessing something special in the making.