Saturday , Nov , 10 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Forget The Score, NBA Wins Yi Jianlian-Yao Ming Duel

Forget the final score. And disregard the boxsheet, too. The NBA was the unanimous winner in last night’s Bucks-Rockets game by continuing to capture the hearts, minds, and purse strings of the lucrative Asian market …

The Associated Press reports on last night’s battle of China between Yi Jianlian’s Milwaukee Bucks and Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets:

Yao Ming thinks Yi Jianlian will be a better player than him some day.For now, Yao still is the king of basketball in China.Yao and Yi each had their share of highlights in the much-anticipated first matchup of the country’s greatest player and its top rising star, and Yao’s Houston Rockets beat Yi’s Milwaukee Bucks 104-88 on Friday night.Yao, the five-time All-Star, had 28 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Yi, the 20-year-old rookie, had 19 points and nine rebounds.

My Quick Take: Forget the final score. And disregard the boxsheet, too. The NBA was the unanimous winner in last night’s Bucks-Rockets game by continuing to capture the hearts, minds, and purse strings of the lucrative Asian market. 

After all, 19 television stations covered the Yao-Yi duel, beaming this master-student standoff to 200 million Chinese basketball fans. The ratings were huge, especially for the regular season.

Now consider the future. Yao Ming is the NBA’s best center. Last year, the skilled post was having a stellar campaign before sustaining a mid-season injury. This year, his game has taken another step and the re-tooled Rockets are legitimate contenders.

In Milwaukee, Yi has exceeded expectations. The rookie shook off this summer’s controversies and beat established pro Charlie Villanueva for the Bucks’ starting small-forward position. His skill and height reminds fans of another international star, the great Tony Kukoc.

Yao and Yi’s on-court future is bright, which is why David Stern is probably humming 50 Cent’s I Get Money around the league’s head office the last few days.

The commissioner gets it. 200 million Chinese citizens watched their favorite stars in a mean-nothing regular season contest. How many would watch Yao and Yi in the playoffs or NBA Finals? And how many would support a Chinese NBDL team or an NBA sponsored league?

Last night’s final score and boxsheet really are irrelevant, when stepping back and considering the possibilities in China. More and more, it appears the future of the NBA is overseas.

Should the NBA expand to China? Get at us in the comment box below with your thoughts.

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