By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist

Chairman Yao? The Ming Dynasty? How about Shanghai Surprise, minus Madonna and Sean Penn?

Chinese prospect Yao Ming has spawned more draft curiosity than any player since a skinny, 6-11 high school kid from Chicago dismantled the prep-to-pro barrier. Now, we've got a real-life version of "The Air Up There II: How Yao Like Me Now?" -- only without the Kevin Bacon factor.

But is the hype really deserved? Sure, he showed flashes of game in his private Chicago workout last week for a couple hundred of his closest critics, but when you stack him up with the other tallest of trees who have sprouted throughout the league recently, you get a sense of the, uh, bigger picture:

Yao Ming
Yao Ming

THE CONTENDERS:
Yao Ming: Top NBA prospect for 2002 draft
Manute Bol: '80s oddity
Shawn Bradley: Mark Cuban's project
Mark Eaton: Utah man-mountain
Gheorghe Muresan: All-time fan fave


HEIGHT:
Yao: 7-5
Bol: 7-7
Bradley: 7-6
Eaton: 7-4
Muresan: 7-6


FROM:
Yao: China
Bol: Sudan
Bradley: Utah
Eaton: Utah
Muresan: Romania


Manute Bol
Manute Bol

CAREER STATS:
Yao: 23.4 ppg, 15.4 rpg, bpg n/a (China Basketball League)
Bol: 2.6 ppg, 4.24 rpg, 3.3 bpg
Bradley: 9.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.0 bpg
Eaton: 6.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.5 bpg
Muresan: 9.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg


CLAIM TO FAME:
Yao: Likely to be first foreign-developed No. 1 overall pick
Bol: Teamed with Muggsy Bogues in D.C. freak show
Bradley: Can't stop getting swung at by opponents
Eaton: Redefined a center's presence in the paint in '80s
Muresan: "My Giant." 'Nuff said.


MEMORABLE LOOK:
Yao: Posterizing Chris Christofferson last week
Bol: Vintage '80s short-shorts on his long, skinny legs
Bradley: Getting clocked by Walt Williams
Eaton: That wild red beard
Muresan: Palling around with Juwan Howard and Chris Webber as part of D.C. couldawouldashoulda "Fab Three"


Shawn Bradley
Shawn Bradley

TEAMS PLAYED FOR:
Yao: Shanghai Sharks (CBL), Golden State Warriors (???)
Bol: Rhode Island Gulls (USBL), Washington Bullets, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors
Bradley: Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks
Eaton: Utah Jazz
Muresan: Washington Bullets, New Jersey Nets, Pau Orthiz (France)


GO-TO MOVE:
Yao: The 15-footer
Bol: The "Manute for 3!"
Bradley: The Elbow
Eaton: The Blocked Shot
Muresan: The Bunny


KEY STAT:
Yao: Best Chinese player ever
Bol: NBA-record eight blocks in single quarter
Bradley: No. 2 overall draft pick, 1993
Eaton: Astounding 5.56 blocks per game in '84-'85
Muresan: '95-'96 NBA Most Improved Player


Mark Eaton
Mark Eaton

NEW NICKNAME:
Yao: Ming the Merciless Marketer
Bol: The One-Manute Man
Bradley: Man Behaving Bradley
Eaton: Eat 'Till You're Stuffed
Muresan: The Human Bobblehead


IDEAL POST-PLAYING CAREER MOVIE ROLE:
Yao: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden My Giant"
Bol: Alongside Martin Lawrence in wacky buddy-cop franchise, "Bol Boys"
Bradley: "Space Jam II: Bradley Bugaloo"
Eaton: Can't you see him in Billy Bob Thornton's role in a remake of "Sling Blade"?
Muresan: All together now: "My Giant II." You know you want it.


IDEAL ENDORSEMENT DEAL:
Yao: Trade relations between the U.S. and China
Bol: "Manute Rice" (or, let him loose selling New Orleans Hornets season-ticket packages)
Bradley: Street clothes
Eaton: Applebee's (A layup slogan: "Eaton good in the neighborhood")
Muresan: Wasn't that Snickers "Smells Like Cabbage" commercial enough?


NEEDS TO WORK ON:
Yao: English
Bol: Unemployment
Bradley: Puttin' on some pounds
Eaton: Tutoring young NBA big men
Muresan: Improving his vaunted foot shuffle


WHAT HE LIKES BEST ABOUT BEING TALL:
Yao: Opportunity to make big dollars for Chinese government
Bol: All those "How's the weather up there?" jokes
Bradley: Looking down on billionaire owner Cuban
Eaton: It obscured the fact that he was kinda scary-looking
Muresan: Chicks dig it.


Gheorghe Muresan
Gheorghe Muresan

VERSUS SHAQ:
Yao: Will be dead meat
Bol: Would have been broken
Bradley: Wanted to mix it up, foolishly
Eaton: Would have been interesting!
Muresan: One of few players Shaq ever had trouble with. No, seriously.


WHY THEY COULDN'T DOMINATE:
Yao: Too soft
Bol: Too skinny
Bradley: Too fragile
Eaton: Too deferential to Mailman
Muresan: Too slow


MOST SKILLED TEAMMATE:
Yao: Wang Zhi Zhi
Bol: Bernard King
Bradley: Dirk Nowitzki
Eaton: John Stockton
Muresan: Billy Crystal


THING YOU PROBABLY WON'T SEE:
Yao: Playing anywhere near Memphis
Bol: Jerry Krause's vision for imposing frontline: Chandler, Curry, Bol
Bradley: Holding NBA championship trophy aloft to cheers of "MVP!"
Eaton: Coming out of retirement to play for center-needy Knicks
Muresan: As lead analyst for new NBA TV package next season


FUTURE:
Yao: To be seen
Bol: Kind of bleak
Bradley: Bounced by Kings?
Eaton: A comeback would be nice
Muresan: Dominate pro hoops in France

Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. His "What's Hot, What's Not" trend-spotting list appears Thursdays.




Dan_Shanoff
Dan
Shanoff
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