While he clearly has skills, Yao Ming has repeatedly been dinged for lacking a mean streak. Well, that meanness is on the way if recent events tell us anything. In fact, if developing your inner Incredible Hulk makes you a superstar (well, that and being 7 foot 5), Ming may very well be on the brink.
It began on Wednesday when Ming had a hole banged in his face by Ali Fakhreddine’s Lebanese elbow in the Asian Basketball Championships. The refs called no foul. Enraged, Ming smeared his blood on the ref’s table before storming off to the locker room. He needed 4 stitches. While this might seem minor for some, it’s big shakes for the once quietly contemplative Ming. So much for the gentle giant, eh?
Perhaps we could have seen it coming. After all, the China national team (on which Yao plays) has had a spate of violent outbursts over the past few years — from the bench-clearing brawl in the Lebanon game in 2001 (yep, these two have a history) to the fan free-for-all vs. Puerto Rico earlier this year in the Stankovic Cup game. Clearly the US doesn’t have a corner on this sort of behavior.
Ming’s blood-smearing tactic brings a new dimension to it, though — a bravado. Do we see the makings of a Shakespearean hero? Or is this going to devolve into WWE Saturday Night? Either way, it’ll be tough for the press to say Yao lacks passion after this stunt. Now he just has to bring it stateside.
See the Times for more on Yao’s un-mean streak or read Tom Huang’s discussion of why mean is exactly the wrong thing to hope for. And if you really want to see Ming mad, have him take a look over here.