NEW YORK (AP) — Han Xu understandably grew up idolizing Yao Ming, mesmerized by the large shadow the 7-foot-3 Corridor of Famer solid each time he stepped onto an NBA courtroom.
At 6-10, Han desires to emulate Yao’s influence, together with his influence on the game in China. She desires to be a feminine basketball beacon in her native nation.
Han is on his approach. Followers can not seem to get sufficient of the 22-year-old rising star.
“Han and Li (Yueru) have created a buzz each on-line and offline. Many ladies have been impressed by Han and Li, and we’ve got numbers displaying that extra ladies are collaborating in basketball in any respect ranges,” stated Michael Yuan, a Chinese language basketball analyst. Founding father of Staff Fountainhead “We’re additionally clearly seeing extra information and different kinds of user-generated content material on the Chinese language social media platform.”
Han’s highlights have garnered hundreds of thousands of views on streaming platforms in China. Kuaishou, a worldwide social media platform, lately held a reside streaming session with him, which garnered round 1.6 million views.
Han and the 6-7 Li, who’s with the Chicago Sky, are the final of a half-dozen Chinese language gamers to spend time within the WNBA. Haixia Zheng was the primary to make an influence within the league, averaging 8.9 factors over two seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks in 1997 and 1998 – beginning 21 video games in his first 12 months.
“Homegrown gamers like Han Xu and Li Yueru are succeeding on the highest stage, sparking curiosity amongst passionate Chinese language basketball followers and galvanizing Chinese language youth to play the sport,” stated NBA China Senior Vice President Jonathan Li.
Chinese language followers grew to become conscious of Han and Li Yueru once they performed with the fifth-placed Olympic group in Tokyo. However their fan base has grown since each have been drafted in 2019 — Han within the second spherical, Li within the third.
“It was a terrific honor for me to return right here to make my dream come true in 2019,” Han stated by means of an interpreter. “At that second, I simply needed to develop up little by little, be taught from veteran gamers who compete on this planet’s highest basketball league.
“And I additionally hoped that with my affect right here, I may promote the game in China.”
Like his childhood hero: 7-6 Yao.
“He had a really profitable profession within the NBA, and he additionally promoted sports activities tradition in China, so now extra Chinese language folks like to observe basketball,” Han stated. “I hope I also can make some influence within the WNBA after which deliver my influence again to my residence nation and let extra followers see the efficiency of a Chinese language participant.”
Neither Han nor the 6-7 Li, who turned 23 in March, was born when Zheng was in LA doing her WNBA factor. Neither have Yao’s abilities – they usually could by no means be that good, not many.
Yao was chosen by the Houston Rockets with the No. 1 total decide within the 2002 NBA Draft. He has change into an envoy for the sport in China and is presently the top of basketball in China.
Whereas Han and Li are nonetheless honing their abilities, the gamers’ recognition in China is on the rise.
Han is averaging 9.2 factors and capturing almost 54% from the sector in about 18 minutes per recreation with the Liberty. Li hasn’t had a lot success, averaging simply 2 factors per recreation in Chicago.
Once they performed in New York final month, a handful of Chinese language media have been available. Interviews with gamers garnered hundreds of thousands of viewers in China. On Saturday, they are going to meet once more, and it will likely be broadcast reside in China.
“The variety of basketball followers in China is large,” Li stated by means of an interpreter. “Chinese language followers can get to know extra WNBA gamers and WNBA groups by watching me and Han Xu’s highlights. I feel it may be good for me and Han Xu, but it surely will also be good for the WNBA.
Each Han and Li have excelled within the offseason within the Chinese language Basketball League, which has featured WNBA gamers equivalent to Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles.
“Once I was rising up, there have been quite a lot of WNBA gamers that I regarded as much as,” Li stated. “There are quite a lot of WNBA gamers that I feel they do a terrific job in all of these points, it doesn’t matter what facet of life or profession. They’re nice.”
Han has proven she is usually a dominant power within the WNBA. He scored a career-high 24 factors towards Las Vegas earlier this month.
“I feel it is a terrific honor that home followers can watch WNBA video games on TV in China,” Han stated. “I feel if Chinese language followers watch my recreation within the league, they are going to get a greater thought of the event of the game overseas.”
Extra AP Girls’s Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports