When 7-5 Houston Rockets center Yao Ming came to the U.S. from his native China after being made the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, his mission was to discredit doubters who claimed he'd be just another of a long line of giants who've entered the NBA with great hype only to disappoint.
But what did also really hope to achieve?
"He wanted to learn how to drive and have his own car," said his translator at the time, Colin Pine. "That was Yao’s big thing ever since he got here."
Such a simple but a heartfelt goal reminds us of the little things Yao originally had to adapt to in his transition to the States. Everything from the country's food to its culture to its language.
As evidenced by the "former" status in front of Pine's title nowadays and the driver's license Yao obtained during his rookie year, it can be said the Shanghai product has truly assimilated to his new land. And in his fourth season in the NBA this year, it can also be said Yao has obtained yet another license in America: one to dominate.
Just look at his numbers in the month of March -- averages of 27.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.13 blocks per game over 15 games. Yao is making a case for himself as the best center on the planet. Criticized during his first three seasons for being too passive, Yao stepped up his game to a whole new level during the loss of superstar teammate Tracy McGrady for much of March and all of April.
While many are saying Yao is now finally playing like a man his size should play, his coach insists Yao's impact on the court has been a product of more than just his 7-5 height.
"Yao is not blessed with anything except God-given size and great parents," Van Gundy told the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Everything else has been worked for basketball-wise. There's a lot easier roads to becoming a really, really good player in this league. He had a difficult road, and he made it through his own internal drive to be great."
Which is the true reason why Yao Ming -- perhaps the world's greatest center and most certainly the tallest licensed driver in the state of Texas -- is the HANNspree Innovative Player of the Month for April.