Year of the Yao (DVD) (WS)
Yao Ming. He's 7'5" tall, weighs 296 lbs. and carries the hopes and dreams of 1.3 billion people on his athletic shoulders. This vibrant documentary captures not only the exceptional athlete and Chinese hero who arrived in America with no command of the English language, but also the simple guy who now lives with his mother in Houston, Texas and likes hanging out with friends, surfing the internet and playing video games. Also featuring NBA greats Shaquille O' Neal ("Scary Movie 4," "Kazaam"), Charles Barkley ("Space Jam," "Look Who's Talking Now").
and Glory Road
are rousing underdog sports films based on inspiring true stories. The Year of the Yao
is the real thing, a satisfying chronicle of the international superstar's tumultuous rookie year. It is doubtful that any NBA player had to withstand the type of scrutiny that the 22-year-old Ming endured. The first-overall draft pick in 2002, the NBA's first Chinese player was expected to make the Houston Rockets an instant playoff team, though he was unaccustomed to the speed and aggressiveness of American-style basketball. He was also seen as "a walking advertisement" and ambassador for expanding China's place on the world stage. Yao carried all the pressure on his seven-foot, six-inch frame with aplomb, aided immeasurably by Colin Pine, who put off law school to become his interpreter. Yao's story plays like the stuff of Hollywood fiction, from his disastrous debut that inspired TV commentator Charles Barkley to promise to kiss his co-anchor's backside if Yao ever scored 19 points in a game to his emergence as a bona-fide superstar of Shaq proportions. Historical snapshots of China put Yao's story into cultural context, making The Year of the Yao
compelling viewing even to those for whom basketball is foreign. --Donald Liebenson