As nostalgia reigns supreme the Yao Ming memory that still rattles around in the crevices of my mind is not of him in an actual game. It doesn’t involve any of his stellar mid-2000’s seasons. It’s not any of those hyped match-ups with Shaq. It’s a video of him in a pre-draft workout in Chicago. The video isn’t findable on YouTube anymore, which is a shame. This Sports Illustrated piece details the day in full, though.
I was in my 8th grade computer class when I saw the video. Mr. Wicks was teaching us how to use PowerPoint by making slide shows describing ourselves to the rest of our class. This meant that for the entire hour that day I was rifling through ESPN.com and Rivals.com trying to catch myself up on college football recruiting and draft rankings. On ESPN.com I stumbled onto a video of this 7’6″ behemoth wearing a bracelet hitting 20 footers off the catch. My friend Jarred and I took a break from finding audio clips of the Beastie Boys shouting “Brass monkey” and we sat in front of my computer with our jaws rubbing the Fort Gibson Middle School Computer Lab carpet. The physics of this guy just being able to dribble a basketball made no sense to us at the time. Much less him hitting NBA range threes.
Any success Yao had in the months and years that followed always sent my mind back to that day in middle school, for whatever reason. Some combination of an inability to grow up and the shock and awe Jerrad and I felt over seeing a guy that size be that skilled. He was some kind of alien to us. A new force.
There is a place in Chicago that is a kind of heaven for some. Wine and bourbon and vodka and beer and more of that sort line the walls. And the ceilings those walls hold up are high. Aisles on aisles of spirits. The liquor goes on for what would seem like miles to a sixteen-year-old and the people that work there wear burgundy shirts and know a lot about the anatomy of a keg. It’s called Binny’s Beverage Depot.
So why, the Thomas-Pynchon’s-favorite-
Ming has thrown himself into the making of wine since his body forced him out of the game after the 2010-2011 season and he’ll be bringing his Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted by Director of Winemaking Tom Hindle, to Chicago. Yao’s wines have been raking in the awards and the accolades since Yao Family Wines has been in business and this is a chance for you to get some of that award winning deliciousness signed by the man himself.
I doubt that I know you, so I won’t pretend to know your reaction to this. I can only tell you mine. I am thrilled. I feel like if you’re one of those people unsure of the meaning of life then something about an extremely likable former professional basketball player turned icon owning and peddling his own line of wines to the masses, grassroots style, is hugely awesome. The coolest part, though, is the list of the names of the wines. Some of them, it’s clear, he really shoe-horned in the puns, but the effort is appreciated. The names were clearly heavily drawn from the 2006-2007 Rockets team he was a part of with a few concessions made for Rocket greats Cuttino Mobley and Bobby Sura–on whose he he didn’t even try. The only rough title is the one named after his friend, Tracy McGrady. That one is kind of sad.
The CuPino Mobely.
The Ca-Battier Sauvignon.
The Steve No(ir)vak.
The Bob Sura.
A Dikembe MutumbMerlot.
The Tracy McGrapey.
You can see the rest of the list here. They all seem pretty delightful. If you want to see Yao, head over to Binny’s in Chicago’s South Loop on Monday, November 18th, from 4:00-5:30PM.
Thanks to @M_Trevor for making me aware of this.