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Yes, Yao Ming was our NEXT cover boy in December 2000 and, yes, our Ric Bucher scoped him during his recent NBA predraft audition. We know the guy as well as anybody, and thatís why we know what he really meant in his PR-conscious post-workout statement.

ďItís been a dream of mine to play in the NBA ever since the first time I saw a game on TV many years ago. (Clippers vs. Hawks, 1987. Even then I thought, "I can take Tree Rollins.")

To almost touch that dream today fills me with a sense of joy that words simply cannot describe. I am humbled and grateful for the unforgettable experience of the past few days (Eddy and Tyson and I watched At the Half with Hannah Storm.)

I would first like to thank NBA for hosting this event in the great city of Chicago. The superb organization demonstrates a level of professionalism that I truly admire. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to all NBA teams for showing interest in me (Please, God, anywhere but Cleveland.)

Yao Ming
The Jump knows how to read between Yao's lines.

I am honored to be in your presence. And I hope I have not disappointed you with my performance today. Proper credit is also due to the members of the media. The game of cat-and-mouse is stressful, but your resourcefulness and work ethic are something I think we players should emulate. (You gotta have serious chutzpah to ask CWebb about Tyra.)

Journalism is a profession I respect a great deal. Just give me some time to warm up. I look forward to taking each and every one of you to dinner sometime in the future. (Mmmm, Hannah Storm.)

But the check is on you if your reporting makes me look bad. (But the check is on you if your reporting makes me look bad.)

Last, but certainly not least, I owe the greatest debt of gratitude to the fans of basketball everywhere. You gave me the greatest job on earth. (Next to pedicurist for Hannah Storm.)

And I promise to repay your trust by respecting the game, and challenging myself to be the best that I can be. Let the good times roll! (Does anyone know how to set up a Swiss bank account?

This article appears in the May 27 issue of ESPN The Magazine.



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