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Call it the Big Bang of NBA fandom in China.Chinese basketball fans began watching NBA games in 1987, the year in which China Central Television (CCTV) began broadcasting NBA games. Megastars such as ?Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson instantly became household names. Then along came more transformational American talents like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James?and Stephen CurryYao Ming, however, always has a special place in Chinese fans hearts.The 7-foot-6 center from Shanghai isnt flashy. Unlike Allen Iverson, Yaos image is so clean that it borders on boring. The color of Yaos Reebok sneakers is so dull that for many years in China it lagged far behind Nikes glamour shoes.Hes too tall -- basically no Chinese person can relate to or emulate his playing style. Generation after generation, Chinese teenagers have worn baggy pants like Iverson or Under Armour sneakers like Curry, mimicking the look and moves of their idols. And they simply dont practice Yaos post moves.But Yao is one of us. His experience is our experience; his time is our time.A generational symbolIn China, those who were born in the 1980s are called post-80ers. They are part of the first generation that started to enjoy the benefits of Chinas economic reforms of the late 70s that allowed a more open market. Yao was born in 1980. His parents generation emerged hungry from the suffering and political turmoil they grew up in. They were able to provide for their children. When Yao was growing up, millions of Chinese people started to see the world beyond their own windows.Former NBA commissioner David Sterns tireless efforts to globalize the NBA took root in China in 1987, that same year, the American fast food restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first store in Beijing. Two years later, the first Shanghai KFC outlet opened, and some time later, a 10-year-old Yao waited two hours in line to get his first taste of American food.Fifteen years after that the Houston Rockets drafted Yao as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft. The NBAs popularity in China boomed. His first game against Shaquille ONeal and the Lakers attracted more than 200 million viewers in China. The Rockets instantly became Chinas team. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton described Yao Ming as Chinas single largest export to the United States.Yaos emergence on an elite world sports stage was followed by two fellow post-80ers: Liu Xiang, Yaos fellow Shanghai native, a gold-medal-winning 110-meter hurdler from the 2004 Olympics and world-record holder. And then came Li Na, at one time the worlds No. 2-ranked womens tennis player and two-time Grand Slam winner.By no small coincidence the trios success paralleled Chinas. The countrys gross domestic product per capita in 1987 was $302. It rose to $1,149 by 2002. That same year, KFC opened Chinas 700th restaurant.Post-YaoYao retired in 2011 because of persistent injury issues. Liu was next in 2012, and Li finished her career in 2014. In China, this big three enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime status, not only because each had world-class achievements, but also because they crafted a brand-new kind of Chinese athlete. They spoke English; they had a unique sense of humor; and their charisma was incomparable and, most importantly, authentic. After he finished his NBA career, Yao decided to go back to China. In a 2014 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, he said: There is more opportunity [in China]. We have a lot that can be developed.He was correct. Now back in China, he has made himself a professional basketball club owner (in 2009, he bought the Shanghai Sharks, his former CBA team), a successful businessman (he owns his own wine label), a congressman and an ambassador for wildlife protection.In 2015, Chinas per capita GDP was $8,027. KFC has more than 5,000 outlets all over the country.Yao is the product of his era. Fortunately for him and for most Chinese people, it has been a very good era.On Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts, an entire country will celebrate Yao Mings Hall of Fame entry. Undoubtedly his speech will thank everybody important to him. But it is the Chinese fans who will also thank him, for being the countrys best export -- and import -- between United States and China. Mike Vernon Jersey . A big centre with all the tools to be an elite player, Johansen paced the Blue Jackets with a standout game Saturday night. 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Bernier stopped 42 of 43 shots on Monday night, including all 22 in a hectic middle frame, his heroic performance propelling the Leafs toward an undue point in their final game before the Christmas break. The mission was clear: Go to the NBA. Take over. Do so in a way that told the basketball world a new era had arrived.If you were not a part of his inner circle, Allen Iverson didnt give a damn about you. The thing is, he was atypical in that he wanted you to know it, specifically because it was his way of saying he knew you would never give a damn about him anyway, no matter how much you smiled in his face.His talent would make you care.His performance would make you salivate.His achievements would make you kneel.All the way to the Hall of Fame, someday.Iversons story is not foreign, of course. Its similar to that of many players in todays NBA. Most are African-Americans. Most come from impoverished backgrounds. Almost all strive to elevate themselves to a level of greatness that has forced a global audience to pay attention, to emulate, then join.Yet very few have ever impacted basketball like Iverson. No matter how hard they try.I always tell folks I played every game like its my last, Iverson said earlier this week, in advance of his Hall of Fame induction on Friday. And I meant that. But sometimes I dont think people realize what I mean when I say that. Its not just about playing so hard; its why I played so hard. You know what I mean? Its what I wondered would happen to me if I didnt do it.Youve got to know my history and how I truly feel to realize where Im coming from.But few will ever know. No matter how hard they try.During to a career that would culminate with Iverson averaging 26.7 points per game, winning four scoring titles and one MVP -- at 6 feet, 165 pounds -- folks witnessed his heroics but barely knew the intimate challenges he faced.Iverson knew being incarcerated, then granted clemency, wasnt a likable trait for Madison Avenue; that he wasnt the ideal spokesman for the NBA. Iverson knew a visibly polished Kobe Bryant was preferable to the tattoos, cornrows and street persona proudly worn on the sleeves, neck and elsewhere on this former All-American out of Georgetown.But Iverson also knew everyone couldnt be Bryant or Michael Jordan. He knew that if MJ and Kobe -- and no one else -- were the standard, society wouldnt have a true depiction of NBA stars to come.I was 6 feet, so folks could relate to that, he once told me. I was 165 pounds, so folks could relate to that. But I was also someone who wanted to be me, judged for what I do and who I am, instead of what you say Im suppose to be. Its true that some [people] dont want to play the game, but a lot of dudes dont know how to. And even the ones that do, most aint going to be accepted. So what about them?Even today that is still a legitimate question.LeBron James has helped provide answers by showing you he can be a champion, pre-eminent role model and global icon, even if tattoos are draped all over his body. Steph Curry has proven as much, as well, by being a baby-faced, long-range assassin who, at 6-foot-3, looks like a regular dude instead of a Goliath of a man.From Carmelo Anthonny to Chris Paul to Dwyane Wade and beyond, players are speaking not just with their play on the court, but with their willingness to address issues off the court.dddddddddddd. And although Iverson is no innovator in that department, his willingness to express himself certainly made it easier for athletes to open up more in a day and age thats demanding it, not asking.What few knew is that Iverson wasnt this way because he couldnt help himself. He was that way because he could be, because he wanted the world to look beyond the veneer, forcing everyone to acknowledge that you didnt have to look, act or Be Like Mike to be immensely popular to basketball and the world.In the midst of all of that, there were personal challenges.There were friends and family who always wanted money and time. There was a loving wife, Tawanna, whom he fully admits he should have appreciated more. There were many days when charity was expected instead of appreciated. There was even a time, according to close confidants, when a member of his inner circle forgot where they parked a Bentley, a ride Iverson had purchased for them, at Philadelphia International Airport -- and instead of continuing to look for it, they simply went to the dealership and bought another one because, well, they could.I didnt know anything about that, Iverson once told me. Maybe because I didnt want to know, honestly!The challenges were relentless. And this was before Twitter, Facebook and the like became so entrenched. But Iverson still marched on.He rose. He fell. He crumbled. Then rose again. Financially. Ethically. Morally at times. Letting critics talk, cynics swell and allowing his life to become far more difficult than it needed to be.There were many occasions when it wasnt even Allen who had done anything, former Sixers president Billy King once told me. It couldve been someone in [Iversons] crew. But it didnt matter. You might as well blame him because the last thing he was going to do was tell on anyone. No matter the reason. Not matter the consequences. Hed take the heat himself for anyone he cared about, and simply say he wasnt perfect.The Answer will tell anyone he was a mess at times. That he couldve been better, but wasnt. But along the way, while talking of his trials and tribulations, hell ask that you remember his triumphs. Hell ask that while saying what you want, dont forget to tell the end of the story.Iverson will ask that you dont omit how he performed under adverse circumstances. How he never cheated fans with his effort, even when tempted to do otherwise. And how, in the end, that is the reason hes so proud hell be in the same building as the all-time greats.Perhaps Iverson gave a damn, after all. He just had to act like he didnt to be considered one of the best ever.Nobody truly knows the road I traveled, he said.Chances are, they will by this weekend. 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