Kobe speaks in China about Yao Ming’s impact


Yao Ming is expected to officially announce his retirement Wednesday at a press conference in China. (And good on the NBA league office for clearing Rocket officials to go to the event in spite of the lockout).

As you read this, Kobe Bryant is in China, the latest of his annual trips to China to promote the game, the NBA, his brand and Nike. Kobe is the biggest American-born player in China, leading the way in jersey and shoe sales for years. (He also has his own Web site for China and his own charitable foundation for the country.)

It was inevitable that Kobe would be asked about Yao, and the New York Times has his response.

 “In terms of opening up doors for Chinese basketball players to come to the NBA, or for the youth here in China to believe that it’s possible to achieve the dream of being an NBA player, all that started from Yao,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Bryant said.

“The movement that started in the NBA of the influx of European players coming to the NBA was started by Vlade Divac, Dino Radja and those guys.

“Even that movement didn’t have the impact and magnitude that Yao Ming has had. And on top of that, he’s just a heck of a basketball player to boot,” Bryant, who is in China on a promotional tour, added.

Kobe and his Lakers had some great battles with Yao and his Rockets, something our own Matt Moore looked back at over the weekend in his RetroBall series.