The legendary Chinese basketball player Yao Ming claims that the men’s national team has received too much criticism after certain players were harassed online after a run of unsatisfactory performances.
Although basketball is very popular in China, the team has never been able to live up to the great expectations placed on it. The most recent disappointment was losing to the Philippines in the Asian Games semi-finals held in China last month.
China defeated Taiwan to take bronze, although the World Cup campaign was seen as a failure and occurred only weeks after they placed 29th out of 32 teams and were not invited to the Olympics in Paris the following year.
The ire of the fans hasn’t subsided, and in recent weeks, national players—including Zhang Zhenlin of the Liaoning Flying Leopards—have been singled out online.
Yao, the current president of the Chinese Basketball Association and an eight-time NBA All-Star, said, “Here I represent the association to make a statement,” on Thursday at an event honoring the Chinese basketball Hall of Fame in Beijing.
“We will accept the outcome regardless of how well or poorly we perform on the basketball court,” state media cited him as saying.
While certain critiques of strategies and techniques are acceptable, we disagree with some of the things that have transcended basketball.
“We will always assist our players in defending their rights and interests, and we will offer all the support required in this regard (online abuse).”
After their team lost 77-76 to the Philippines, who went on to win gold at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, irate Chinese supporters took to the internet to criticize and make fun of their squad.
“It’s painful to watch you play basketball, isn’t it?” posed a notorious meme.
Yao, 43, called the Chinese players “slackers” and forewarned that there was a “huge gap” separating them from the top teams in the globe.