Year of the Yao

James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo's taut, engrossing 2004 documentary on Chinese basketball player Yao Ming's first year in the NBA offers insight into the game and its stars. He arrives at the center of much publicity and well aware that the Chinese people see him as their representative abroad, a burden for a young man adjusting to a new culture. It seems height isn't everything, because the seven-foot-six Yao is really awkward until his team starts teaching him fast, aggressive moves. But he responds to an arguably racist taunt from Shaquille O'Neal with skill on the court, and he and his translator, who also narrates, both come off as good-humored and poised. In English and Mandarin with subtitles. 88 min.

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