2006 Houston All-Star Weekend
Q+A with Panney Wei, NBA TV China (Part 2 of 5)
What was the show for? We understand that because the NBA is such a global game now, this show is intended for the Asian market? Did you have to bust out your Mandarin skills?
How is the air down there, VC?
You’re right. The NBA is an amazing global marketing machine. They truly have an international presence that is definitely growing because of basketball stars like Luol Deng, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and of course, our very own Yao Ming.
The show, Our NBA was produced for the Chinese market, specifically for the growing population of basketball fans in China, so I definitely had to bust out my Mandarin skills at every opportunity I could get! I’ve never learned so many Chinese basketball phrases in my life!
The best thing was I got to teach a few of the basketball stars like Kobe Bryant, Shawn Marion, Nate Rob, and Andres Nocioni (who happened to have the best ear for accents), some basketball phrases in Chinese.
My favorite person to teach Chinese to was Charles Barkley. He was a hoot! He kept looking at me, mispronouncing the words, and asking me if I was purposely making fun of him by asking him to speak Chinese!
Needless to say, we got more than a few laughs with him. But all in all, everyone had top-notch things to say about Yao Ming and his influence on the game of basketball both in the US and China.
How did you land such a sweet gig?
Well, my good friend Brian Yang heard about a casting in NY for a new show called Our NBA for NBA TV China. They were looking for an experienced Chinese female host who could speak English and Chinese fluently, who wasn’t afraid to interview celebrities and All-Stars, who knew the game of basketball and could talk about it in an entertaining way.
Brian had met me at a Dream League event, knew I liked basketball, and was familiar with the NBA, so he thought it’d be right up my alley, so he called me up to notify me of the audition and that I should give it a shot.
I was up for the challenge, even if they were casting the show in 3 days. But since I lived in LA, the only shot I could have at the part was sending in a tape of myself pretending to be at the NBA All-Star Game hosting a show for NBA TV China.
The idea worked. I wrote my own one-minute spot showcasing what I’d say if I was hosting the NBA All-Star Weekend and interviewing Yao Ming. I got a chance to bust out my Mandarin as well, and my fiancé shot the video for me. Thank God he was a Yao fan, because he had a life size image of Yao in his house, which we could use.
Sung-Mo Cho of DLNYC is not
the only one who knows Steve.
The audition turned out to be funny, especially since I was talking to a cardboard copy of Yao, and our story has a nice ending. I ended up booking the job.
What was your most favorite moment down there?
Gosh, there were so many. The first must be playing basketball one-on-one with Spud Webb, Boris Diaw, and Ronnie Turiaf. Those guys were the real-deal: down to earth, easy to talk to, and they definitely taught me a few moves. I finally learned how to dribble between my legs after 30 minutes. It was tough work!
My second most favorite moment at the NBA All-Star Weekend was talking to Nate Rob in the locker room right before he beat out the tough competition and won the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest.
The locker room was full of reporters and All-Stars munching on the Kraft services. (Did you know that they were munching on some pretty heavy food before heading to the court? They ate everything from roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, corned bread, and beef stroganoff! It was a little gross for my taste! But I guess these were big guys, bigger than me!)
So amidst all the food and hoopla, I snagged a moment with Nate at his locker and asked him “What’s it like to be a little big man playing amongst all those tall trees?” He smiled really big and said “I’m always trying to hold my own.”
After interviewing him and realizing how humble he was, I liked him even more. He’s definitely my favorite player, if not one of my most favorite players, because for petite people like me (I’m only 5’4”), he inspires us to have tall dreams! Can you imagine?
Then watching Nate Rob jump over his role model, Spud Webb and win the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk contest when all the odds were against him! Now that was making history.
I told Nate, “I think you’re the living reincarnation of Spud Webb, and I’m going to be rooting for you.”
He laughed and replied, "Well, I’m honored that you said that cause I’m going to do my best. Thank you." He was a class act.