Video: Poet pens ‘First Draft of Yao Ming’s Retirement Speech’

Ball Don't Lie

"Why wouldn't I stop talking? Y'all been telling me my own story for so long, I figured no one wanted to hear it from my lips anyway."

Of course, these words don't come from Yao Ming's lips, either; they were written and spoken by Giles Li, an Asian-American poet and performer based in Boston. In this spoken word piece, Li puts himself in Yao's now-hung-up size 18s and tries to move the spotlight away from the former Houston Rockets center's much-discussed impact as a cultural ambassador and global economic force. Instead, Li looks to illuminate Yao as a flesh-and-blood person, a view frequently shielded from the eyes of the world by all those macro-associations.

The words aren't Yao's, and they can be a bit brusque — there's some potentially NSFW language (especially if you work in, say, a rectory) around the 1:43 mark — but they offer a compelling view of Yao's life, career and recent retirement that's quite a bit more acerbic than the one Yao himself offered back in June.

It's a view that, to be honest, I've never really considered enough; it made me realize that I've pretty much always just thought of Yao in either the most blithely satisfying ("What an amazing talent!" or "What an underrated wit!") or simple, pseudo-intellectual ("What an interesting cross-cultural opportunity his stardom opens up!") ways. I don't know if Yao actually thought, or thinks, or will think any of this stuff, but I do know I'm glad I'm now thinking about it, even if I don't quite know exactly what to say about it, or what that says about me.

Hat-tip to Eric "Pops" Esteves.

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