Originally published in SLAM 69

Yo…Yao. So, we haven’t had a chance to talk yet—there was no way I was gonna bumrush you at All-Star especially with so many people already looking up to you like they were Verne Troyer. We’ll build sometime, but I think we both had too much else to do that weekend. Nothing personal.

And neither is this. Understand (or have Colin explain) that scoring a SLAM cover brings with it a certain amount of bad luck. Some might go so far as to call it a jinx. (Those of you who remember “The Revenge of Penny Hardaway” know what I’m talking about.) And rather than see you get hurt, or take up Ping-Pong or somethin’, we figured it was best to get this out of the way—give you the good and bad at the same time. The Gift and the Curse, as it were.

Besides, as a fan—and we know you’re a fan—even you must appreciate what Kobe’s doing lately. Ryan (who you haven’t met yet, either) brought up something about him being the best player in the game, and I countered with Tracy McGrady. Well, I don’t know if Ryan made a call or something (yeah, Kob’s in his cellie), but next thing I know Kobe’s averaging 40 per for a month straight. We had to get KB8 in the issue somehow, and then he put this one on you, and, well, we really didn’t have much choice. You understand, right?

Lastly, we heard what Kobe said about you at the ASG. “I’ve spoken to him and he speaks perfect English. Don’t let him fool you. He’s a great guy. We’ve become fast friends.” So Yao, the best thing for you to do is just forget about this and get him back. After all, what else are friends for?

Russ Bengtson