Shaq Vs Yao: Black Friday Edition

shaq_yao

Remember these guys? They were the biggest deal in the NBA for most of the 2000s, literally (ugh, I hate using that word). I  remember watching them in the 2004 NBA playoffs playing in the first round. I thought it was going to be a tight matchup: a goliath versus goliath feat of strength. It was going to the be all and end all of NBA showdowns. It didn’t turn out to be so: the Lakers won in 5 games, pretty handily. But whatever, still a big deal.

Today, the continue to fight it out: for the headline ( not really). Today Shaq is releasing his first shoe since his retirement, and has gone back to Reebok to do so, and Yao is back in school.

The ad shows Shaq back on his childhood courts in Newark, New Jersey. Many of us may know that Shaquille was raised on an army reserve, where he learned discipline and had a great relationship with his step-father. What many of us may not know, however, is that Shaq’s biological father was a great high school basketball player from Newark who wasted away his opportunity to play in college with drugs. So despite being estranged with his father, Shaq was raised in Newark and used the local basketball courts as a refuge from his troubled home-life.

The commercial is great. It starts off with a serious Shaq talking about how he made it out of the streets. Then fun-time begins and local kids start dunking and shooting in Shaq’s face. Also, Reginald Noble–AKA Redman–shows up and he brings even more fun-times with him. He’s also a proud Newarker (Newarkite?) and he’s repping a Winnipeg sweater, super cool beans.

As for the shoes, they’re alright. Very 90’s, which is in right now.

How does Yao rebuttal? Well, by almost finishing up a university degree. Yao has been back in school in Shanghai since 2011, at Jiao Tong University–one of the top 9 universities in China. It hasn’t always been smooth for a world-famous giant to go back to school, as you would imagine.

It hasn’t always been easy. The 33-year-old can hardly walk anywhere on campus without being swarmed by fans and reportedly complained once that one of his professors was a former high school classmate. But true to his word, Mr. Yao has diligently continued studying, taking English, journalism and finance electives in addition to his required classes.

The way it works in China, when students have exceptional talents, they enter schools that specialize in that talent. They have schools for acrobatics, basketball, military training, art, etc. So for Yao, he was taken at a young age to develop his basketball talents, and started playing in the Chinese Basketball Association very early. Then he was drafted into the NBA at 18 years-old. Such is life for the talented in China.

However, he made a promise to his parents that he would get a university degree. So here he is: a retired professional basketball player, with millions of dollars, keeping a promise to his loving parents. Such a sweetheart.

Post Script: Hat tip to BL and the New York Times for the news.

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