Yao Ming was recently at the NBA Store in New York, promoting his new autobiography, "Yao: A Life in Two Worlds," which was written by ESPN the Magazine's Ric Bucher. While there, Yao and Bucher met with the media and talked about everything from the upcoming China Games to the long, tall shadow of Shaq. NBA.com was there to ask both of them a few questions. Here's what Yao and Bucher had to say:

YAO MING:

You're participating in a Read to Achieve event at your old primary school during the China Games. How important is that event to you?
Yao Ming: "It's amazing how fast time has gone by since I've been at that school. What I've learned is that you can't waste any time in your life. You have to use every moment to study and learn. I think it's important for me to go back and teach those kids that."

Yao, translator Colin Pine and Bucher make an appearance on NBA TV while at the NBA Store.
(Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images)
What do you hope your teammates get out of this trip to China?
Yao: "I hope they can feel the passion of the Chinese fans."

What do you expect the atmosphere to be for those games?
Yao: "The days leading up to the games will be crazy."

What are your expectations for the Chinese national team in the 2008 Olympic Games?
Yao: "I hope we can do better ever before than we have in history."

With Shaquille O'Neal in the East, how will it be different in the West?*
Yao: "Shaq's in Miami, right? I can still feel his shadow here in New York."

How difficult is it for a young player in Shanghai to become a Yao Ming? Are the resources there?*
Yao: "You can't just talk about Shanghai. China is a very big place. I think if you look at all of China, there are plenty of resources."

By adding Tracy McGrady, do you think you're contenders for a title?*
Yao: "Just looking at the players on the Rockets now, everybody's in great shape, I think we'll be improving every day."

Do you realize that you're also an agent for social change and more than just a basketball player. Does that weigh on you at all?*
Yao: "There's a lot of pressure in that, so I just try my best to do what I'm supposed to do."



RIC BUCHER:

What kind of reception will Yao get in his hometown of Shanghai?
Ric Bucher: "The only thing you can equate it with is Michael Jordan. He's not as good a player as Jordan, obviously, but the thing you need to understand is one, China is four times larger than the United States in terms of population. And, two, they've never had anybody, in any field, that has stepped outside of China and has competed in a Western [field] and been a success. Their national pride in what he is and who he is and their interest in how he does is off the chain.

"And on top of that, they're not used to celebrity. We've been talking about this. Here [in the U.S.], and he's mentioned it, when he says, "Can you give me a minute? People respect that space.

"When I was over there with him and we were walking through airports, it was like a locust attack. There's no such thing as personal space. There's no such thing as respecting the celebrity. It's Yao Ming, I want to climb that tree.

"And this whole thing in Shanghai, the pride is going to be unbelievable."

What do think the atmosphere will be like for the games?
Bucher: "The NBA players will be surprised by the reaction of the fans. They've got the golf clap going [in China]. If you have two guys going down on the floor for the ball, they'll laugh. They see a certain amount of slapstick in it. It'll have a different feel to it. It's a foreign game over there. They have players who are attuned to it, but there's still a large population over there that the whole NBA look is foreign."

What do you think his teammates will get out of this trip?
Bucher: "They may get a little taste of it. I think they'll get the enormity of where he comes from. I think they'll have a better grasp, especially when they go to Shanghai and Beijing, that those are two Westernized cities. There's a Starbucks on every corner, there are McDonald's, Gucci, people speak English, there's high-speed internet. They'll notice it's more modern than their general perception of China.

"I also think they'll get a sense of the overwhelming number of people and the pride that they take in [Yao]. Even as big as Jordan was here, there's nothing here that compares to what [Yao] means to them."

What do you think Yao will get out of this trip?
Bucher: "It's interesting. In terms of making the transition from China and living in the U.S., he's said, "I feel like I'm on an island living in the middle of the ocean right now. I'm not completely Chinese the way I was, but I'm not American.

"I think for him, it's going to come home to him what part is Chinese and what part of him is American. He is going to be going home. He is going to feel that love, but he is going to be coming home as a guy who plays for the Houston Rockets. That's who he's going to be with. People over there are going to see him embraced by his new family and I think he's going to feel that. And I think he's going to realize, I'm at least half-and-half, whereas before he considered himself more Chinese than American."

How important is it for the NBA to play games in China?
Bucher: "I think it's tremendous. I think even more important than just playing games, but any sort of interaction, whether it's coaching or whether it any type of interaction, because this goes beyond the NBA. I think there has to be a communication and understanding of people. We see them as very different and they see us as very different. And there are elements of our societies that are different.

"But, you know, as people, the experience that Yao Ming and I have had in writing the book. We've had a good time. We can joke around. Our sense of humor and the things we like to do are similar."

He seems to be a wry fellow
Bucher: "Very much so. He's always crackin' jokes on me, which allows me to crack on him. And he enjoys people taking shots at him, making him use his wit.

"They've watched NBA basketball for a number of years [in China], but they need to see NBA players walking down the street and see what they look like in person, how they behave and how they interact.

"I dare say, I hope the NBA players understand that. Whether they like it or not, for a lot of Chinese people, they may be the first American person they see in person. That impression, whatever that impression, will be their impression of what an American is. Hopefully, they'll take that into consideration."