This is so fantastic. Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is three years removed from his last game as an NBA player, and four and a half years removed from his last All-Star game as a dominant force in the pivot, but that hasn’t stopped him from attempting to turn himself into an anonymous scholar of sorts. As detailed by the New York Times on Thursday, Yao is beginning his third year at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China – an institution he chose in 2011 because he “wanted to feel the atmosphere on campus.”
Presumably the Frisbee Golf competitions at the quad, we’re guessing.
Here’s a snippet of Yao’s day to day life, from the Times:
On class days, Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 retired N.B.A. center, wakes up at the crack of dawn to beat the Shanghai traffic. Carrying a lunch prepared by his wife, Ye Li, a 6-foot-3 former player in China’s professional league, Mr. Yao drives more than an hour to Jiao Tong University, where he sits through his required courses in the economics and management department. According to one Chinese news report, Mr. Yao would prefer to live in the dorms with his 20-year-old classmates, a move that would save time and energy, “but the beds are too small.”
“When I signed my first professional contract with the Shanghai Sharks at age 17, I promised my parents that, after my basketball career ended, I would pursue my studies at the university level,” Mr. Yao told reporters in Shanghai.
As reported two years ago by People’s Daily Online, Yao will be receiving a heap of private instruction in mathematics, English, journalism (!) and finance courses because he is still swarmed on the campus by adoring fans. He also had to give an initial press conference upon his first year at the university, one that was attended by over 100 media members.
The Times also relayed another interesting quirk to Yao’s life as a student. Most famous former athletes are expected to take on a figurehead role with the government upon retirement, acting as an ambassador for the country in myriad ways in order to take advantage of their celebrity. Because Yao had to leave home at such an early age to train with the members of the Chinese national team, though, he felt pressure to live up to the educational promise he made to his parents. Yao has taken on several charitable causes in his time away from the game, most notably in opposition to the cruel act of cribbing shark fins for food, but his commitment to chasing his degree seems real.
Which is tough, because as Yao mentioned two years ago, he’s a bit “rusty” when it comes to picking up on what most students have to work through in their late teens. Yao is clearly a very intelligent man, but going back to college in your early-to-mid 30s is no joke.
Especially when you’re being mobbed by fellow classmates on your way from class to class. The packed lunch from the missus helps, though, we presume.
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