I want to begin this by making a couple of points. First, yes, I am a big history nerd. This is the reason why so many of my pieces are about past players in sports.
Secondly, my first true love was the samurai history of 16th and 17th century Japan, with the Three Kingdoms era of China's second and third centuries a close second. What does all this have to do with basketball?
Nothing, really, except that basketball is the one sport in America in which a player's height can be of supreme importance. I know your next question: Aren't Chinese people typically shorter than average?
Generally speaking, yes. But when you have a country with more than four times the population of the United States, there are bound to be some monstrous giants, right? But that is also not the reason I believe more huge Chinese players will come along soon.
My "prophecy," if you will, comes from George Santayana's quote: "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it." The exact wording of this quote will, by the end of this article, prove to be ironic.
Back to basketball. Yao Ming is listed at 7'6" and 310 pounds. He is not the tallest player ever in the NBA.
Shawn Bradley was also 7'6", Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan stood 7'7", and these are the tallest along with Yao.
My prediction is that within my lifetime, which began in July of 1977, there will be a Chinese player at least eight feet tall. Does that sound like too much? Here's why it's not too much.
In the second century in China, there was a warrior who baffled all logic and reason in the physical world. Hua Xiong, a general for the despot Dong Zhuo, proved to be a fearsome opponent on the battlefield.
Hua Xiong died in battle against one of the heroes of the Three Kingdoms story, Sun Jian. But before Hua Xiong's death, the world was astir over the man's physicality.
Hua Xiong's Nickname
Remember earlier, I mentioned the quote from Santayana, about people doomed to repeat the past if they forget? Nobody, at least in the United States, seems to be much of a Chinese historian.
Hua Xiong had a very memorable nickname given to him by contemporaries forced to battle him. The people of the time would run in fear when they heard "The Coming Doom" was approaching.
Hua Xiong's Size
So, the point of this whole article is to explain why I believe Yao Ming is the first of a large number of Chinese giants soon to change the athletic world. The historic figure, Hua Xiong, was the first noted man in history of his size.
At the time, there were other big men dominating the battlefields of China besides Hua Xiong. Guan Yu, the God of War, stood 6'8". Zhang Fei, called the "Crazy Tiger," was a 6'4" fighter, thought to be the strongest man in the world at the time.
But Hua Xiong absolutely dwarfed those around him. According to historic documents, The Coming Doom was somewhere a little over nine feet tall. He was too big for armor, too large to use weapons effectively, and strode out to the battlefield unarmed to break enemies with his bare hands.
Now, I know that a man this size is so rare it should only happen once every, what, thousand years. It has been nearly 2,000 years since Hua Xiong, and I cannot recall hearing of another giant like him. But we know the genetic code is somewhere in China.
It will be an exciting day when the next giant, who has the structure and strength to run and jump and shoot and throw, comes to the NBA. Just don't be surprised if he comes from Southeast Asia and changes everyone's perception of huge.