The following comes from a clip out of ESPN.com’s Daily Dime…
It was roughly a month ago that we reveled in the some of the overt signs that Yao Ming believes in himself as a franchise player more than ever.
The evidence then: Yao’s willingness to joke and bang and make you believe, through his body language, that he’s no longer awed by Shaquille O’Neal, all of which came through on the night he rung up 34 points and 14 rebounds against Shaq and Alonzo Mourning in Miami.
The latest evidence: Yao’s very Americanized reactions to a couple of big baskets in a recent road win over the Clippers.
Which was your favorite? Mine was Yao pounding his heart with his right fist after an and-one bucket … but there’s also a popular video clip circulating online that shows Yao celebrating a crucial late turnaround jumper by bellowing: “You can’t [expletive] stop me.”
Count them as two more examples of things we didn’t see from Yao in his first few seasons.
I can’t help but wonder if this is a comparable motif to Asians working in American Christianity. I once asked around some non-Asians to see if they could think of any prominent Asians or Asian Americans at the forefront of Christian leadership and the best answer I got was Paul Young-gi Cho. His claim to fame? Building the world’s largest church in Seoul. But let’s be honest, we’re wondering if he’s gone off the deep end.
When I asked some Asian Americans the same question, I got a couple of quizzical looks. At the forefront of Christian leadership? Well, no names yet. But doing substantial work to our specific demographic, yes. There’s Ken Fong on the West Coast and there’s uh…lots of churches on the East Coast. And Paul Tokunaga has written a book on Asian American leadership…and uh…you said forefront? Yeah, uh…
No offense to the many pastors out there, but I was thinking to myself, so nobody plays in the big leagues? I mean the Red Sox pay top dollar for Matsuzaka, but Asian pastors are a dime a dozen?
So here’s this NBA player, 1st round, 1st pick (an absolute first for an Asian) overall in the 2002 draft– Yao Ming, and within three seasons (although he suffered a knee injury last week), is close to becoming what is considered a true franchise player, perhaps the most dominant center since Shaquille O’Neal, and perhaps the center in the West for the next forseeable decade, and here he is playing at the highest level of basketball. And he is being praised for reacting in Americanized ways–beating his chest, trashtalking with appropriate expletives. He’s being praised for shedding this passive, quiet, and let’s just say it, weak disposition.
I know the analogy of the church to the NBA isn’t a smooth one, I do. But what does it take to be a leader at that level? At the Rick Warren level, the TD Jakes level, the John Piper, Rob Bell, and Andy Stanley level? I understand, sure, the easy thing to say is that’s not our bag. We aren’t megaphones, we’re thinkers. We ain’t no dog-and-pony show, we are trying to do the real deal. This isn’t marketing, this is deeper than the megachurch phenomenon. I understand — you may not agree with their theology, valid reason. You may not like how church is commercialized, duly noted. You don’t like their preaching style, fine. I understand that…I can’t even say that I have what it takes to be on that level, but it just makes me wonder if we don’t enjoy banging in the paint enough. It makes me wonder if many of us just aren’t willing enough to pound our fists on our chest or just be a little bit aggressive with our speech and challenging our communities enough. Out of the legions of Asians pastoring across the country, not one of us stands out? and the last guy that comes off the top of a non-Asian’s mind is a guy whose biggest claim to fame happened what, almost forty years ago?
Because after all, Yao Ming was already a household name in China, he didn’t have to come here. And I don’t necessarily like his game, but I’m glad that he’s here and dropping thirty points on Shaq. I’m glad to see one Asian guy dominate at this Western game. He’s just one guy. I would settle for one. What does it take?