Basketball, Book recommendation, People

Book Recommendation: “YAO: A Life in Two Worlds”

For the past few weeks, I’ve always been looking for a great book, a book about China and sports in English that I could recommend to my dear readers of this blog. And now I am happy that I found one.

“YAO: A Life in Two Worlds” is a memoir by Yao Ming with Ric Bucher, an ESPN the Magazine writer, published by Miramax Books in September 2004.

I really found a lot of fun and inspiration from reading the book. What is really special about this book is that it not only provides many behind-the-scenes stories of “how a tall, skinny kid from Shanghai, whose parents had higher hopes for him than playing basketball, became an NBA star and thereby a living symbol for a country of 1.3 billion people”, but also provides a unique perspective to see the world in Yao Ming’s eyes as he went through those big and small events in his amazing journey. Through this perspective, you will find out how Yao Ming thought and how the Chinese culture, tradition and education have influenced him in making those important decisions in his basketball career and life. Therefore, it is not only a great book that will help you learn the journey of the best basketball player ever to come out of China, but also a unique one to help you get a huge amount of insights about China’s culture and sports system. Although it was published in 2004, most of the insights from the book are as true and useful now as then.

Following are two Editorial Reviews that will help you get a glimpse of this book.

This book is available on Amazon, you can click here to check it out.

You can also find a nice excerpt of the book by click here.

I look forward to hearing about your thoughts of this book soon.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Yao, the 7’5″ Chinese NBA center, charms readers with the same grace and humility that have made him one of basketball’s most mediagenic personalities. Coauthored by Bucher, an ESPN the Magazine writer, the book includes short sections by Yao’s Houston Rockets teammates and managers, but its driving voice is 23-year-old Yao’s. The language is simple, sincere and often funny as Yao jokes about Wilt Chamberlain’s reputation as a ladies’ man and presents a view of himself as a blue-collar worker (“I sweat for my paycheck”). The book follows Yao’s career in China, the bureaucratic struggles involved in getting him to the U.S., and his experiences on the court, including what it was like to play against Shaq. Though there’s lots of basketball talk, the book’s most compelling sections address the clash of cultures, such as the time when Yao’s former team, the Shanghai Sharks, banned one of Yao’s representatives from negotiating because he was white. Yao clearly loves his native country and says his greatest dream is to lead China’s national team to an Olympic gold medal. But with millions in endorsement deals, the adoration of fans across the globe and this earnest book, it’s clear he’s living out the American dream, too. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The seven-foot-four-inch Yao, all-star center with the Houston Rockets, is the best basketball player ever to come out of China. This as-told-to autobiography covers the usual ground: Yao’s youth as the son of two outstanding Chinese baskestball players; his enrollment in the Chinese basketball pipeline and subsequent international success; and his decision to try the NBA. What sets the book apart from similar sports bios is Yao’s comparison of Chinese culture with the one to which he’s adapting in the U.S. For example, he contrasts the freewheeling NBA sexual lifestyle versus his own chaste courtship of a player on the Chinese women’s national team. He also displays a sly sense of humor, digging playfully at NBA broadcaster Bill Walton by noting that Yao’s translator has no idea what Walton is talking about. Coauthor Bucher, a first-generation American whose initial language was German, adds context to Yao’s story with his own experience assimilating a new culture. This will be a very pleasant surprise for readers expecting the usual and-then-we-played memoir manufactured to capitalize on the popularity of a young superstar. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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To contact the reporter/editor for this story: Carrie Xu, USC Marshall MBA 2011 in Los Angeles at

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About Carrie Xu

Yanqin "Carrie" Xu is a Shanghai native, currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area and working for the Pac-12 Conference as Senior Manager, International. She is very passionate about sports and international collaboration, and is doing her best to bridge sports between the US and China. Carrie holds an MBA degree from University of Southern California (USC) and has worked for Nike China and Nike International Basketball previously. She was also a Vice President at USC Marshall Sports Business Organization. She can be reached via email at


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My name is Carrie Xu. I hope you enjoy reading this blog.
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