Lesson from the School of Yao: Los Angeles Lakers De-Emphasizing Superstars

BEIJING — The big reveal before the Los Angeles Lakers lost their exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night was launching the first NBA Yao School.

The goal of this after-school program in Beijing and future schools is not to develop the best of the best the way the Chinese government has attempted to do with such strict determination. This, according to NBA commissioner David Stern, is to teach “teamwork, exercise, fitness and communication amongst people. And that was very important for Yao.”

NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver was specific about what isn’t very important to Yao, saying, “Our shared goal is to increase basketball participation throughout China, both boys and girls, and…not to focus just on elite players.”


And then, just before tipoff, the elite player who wasn’t even playing got all the cheers.

Kobe Bryant emerged from the locker room and received a roaring ovation while just standing on the court. Once the game started, it continued.

The MasterCard Center scoreboard operations director cut to shots of Bryant stoically watching the game, not wearing a tie or chewing gum (first half) or stoically not chewing gum (second half) or once animatedly talking to Wes Johnson—and the shots kept eliciting bigger cheers than the guys actually making baskets in the game.

The big reveal after the Lakers’ loss was Mike D’Antoni’s explicit doubt that Bryant, who tested himself with running Tuesday but is still not ready for on-court work, will come back from his Achilles tear by opening night.

That just pushes this whole issue of a little great versus a lot of good further into the forefront of this Lakers season.

No matter the value of the lessons the NBA Yao School will teach, the NBA Winning Model is to have superstars. An...

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