Bill Walton and Yao Ming discuss the future of athletics and academics before Pac-12 China Game
SHANGHAI, China — Pac-12 legend Bill Walton and Chinese former NBA superstar Yao Ming shared the stage in a wide-ranging discussion at Friday’s China-U.S. University Sports and Education Summit, hosted by the Pac-12 Conference and Federation of University Sports of China at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
With Alibaba Group’s Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai moderating, Walton and Yao shared stories from their own personal journeys while focusing on Saturday’s regular-season opener between the Washington and Texas men’s basketball teams in Shanghai.
Yao said he is looking forward to the matchup and how it will affect the future of academics and athletics in China.
“I think for the NCAA and Pac-12, the impact or the legacy in China will be that we can find a balance for sports and education,” Yao said. “That will set a great example for Chinese students, including student-athletes that we can make that happen, we can balance that well and we can choose both at the same time. It’s not like it needs to be an option — like going left or going right. We can make the best choice that we can do both.”
Yao knows about the benefits and disadvantages of being an elite athlete in China. Sure, he is likely headed to the Hall of Fame once eligible, but the Chinese model of sending young top-notch athletes on atypical academic track has also affected his life. In fact,Yao is currently a student at Jiao Tong University, saying he didn’t receive a proper education growing up.
Given its tradition of academic and athletic excellence, the Pac-12 has been trying to spread the idea of a student-athlete as part of its Globalization Initiative. For Walton, he envisions the 2015 Pac-12 China Game as a launching pad for new possibilities worldwide.
“What’s going to happen with this game, is that young people somewhere will watch this game and their life will be forever changed,” Walton said. “Because they will see effort, passion, commitment, sacrifice and discipline, all of the things that going into making a team, a group and, ultimately, an individual.”