Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Welcome to Milwaukee, Yi

Yi meets his newest fans

Yi Jianlian arrived this afternoon in Chicago (CBS58 video), and as he was driven through Milwaukee he saw a familiar sight on billboards: himself. As China's hottest basketball export since Yao Ming, Yi is used to crowds of adoring fans, but Charlies Gardner writes that even Yi was surprised at the reception he received upon landing at O'Hare.

"It's a brand new start for me," Yi said through a translator. "I feel so excited that so many fans and media come here to see me."
Waiting for him in Chicago was Bucks Director of Player Personnel Dave Babcock, who escorted Yi from the gate to the horde of media and fans waiting in the terminal. Among those waiting were both of his Milwaukee-based fan clubs as well as the Chinese Consulate General from Chicago. It's been a whirlwind period for Yi, who began the week by playing three games for China in the CBA-Euroleague Challenge on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Now he has less than 24 hours before his first NBA practice on Thursday, followed by media day on Friday and the Bucks' open scrimmage on Saturday at noon. Then on Sunday there will be a welcome reception at the Bradley Center with both Senator Kohl and Governor Jim Doyle, and oh yeah, the Bucks first exhibition game is Tuesday, October 9 against the Bull in LaCrosse.

CBS 58 reports on Yi's arrival

Given Yi's extensive travels with the national team this summer, it will come as no surprise if he hits the rookie wall a bit early, but it's also worth noting that a year round schedule is nothing new for the Chinese big man. Still, Yi has quite a challenge ahead of him, as it'd be hard enough adapting to NBA life as your average American college kid. Instead, Yi will also shoulder the burden of representing the world's most populous nation while trying to meet the expectations of a brand new city. Fortunately the Bucks don't need Yi to be a star from the get-go, but that likely won't do much to curb the intense media glare and public fascination with Milwaukee's newest import.

The JS has a photo gallery here, and Chinese site has one here. CBS 58 has video of Andrew Bogut talking about how he plans to ease Yi's transition. And you can also get a look at Bogut's new buzz, which thankfully no longer has that Jedi-tail thing.

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