yao ming goes to school

This week Shanghai, retired NBA star Yao Ming began classes Jiaotong University. That's right -- Yao's gone back to school: Boy Interrupted: At 31, Chinese Hoops Star Yao Ming Finally Begins His College Career.

Considering that he was plucked out of regular school at age 13 to become a cog in China's state-run sports system, and ultimately become an international ambassador for basketball, this ought to be a significant change of pace.
Yao, who retired from the NBA in July after an impressive but injury-plagued career as a center with the Houston Rockets, will study at Jiao Tong University's management school. His course-load will include English, math and modern Chinese history, as well as finance and journalism. Nearly nine years in the States will presumably help him with the language course, although after his first day of school he told a media scrum that adjusting to academic life was tiring. “The teacher showed me some mercy and didn't assign me any homework,” he joked to reporters.

Because of the constant media attention and frenzied fan interest in his every move, Yao will be taking some of his classes in one-on-one tutorials with the professors, according to what his agent told the state Xinhua News Agency. By Tuesday, pictures of Yao during the first day of class—ranging from him sitting at the back of the class like a true jock to him towering over a whiteboard on which he scribbled some math formulas—had turned up on the Internet. Presumably fellow students had snapped the images with their smartphones, even as they were supposed to be paying attention in class.
You have to wonder what it's like for Yao, now 31, to be back in a classroom. The university reportedly had to build a special chair for him and his exceptional stature to sit through lectures. But even more, I wonder what it's like for the other students to have the nation's most famous athlete as your classroom.

Don't freak out too much, and please try to be as cool as possible when you inevitably bust out that camera phone. You know you will.

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