By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In this month’s edition we take a look at a snowboarding Phenom, a new Mariner, the Sounders lose a key player and Yao Ming moves closer to Hall of Fame.
Kim continues to soar in women’s snowboarding
Korean American Chloe Kim is having another great winter as she has racked up some impressive victories in snowboarding competitions this season. At just 15 years old, Kim won Gold in the “super pipe” event at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado this past February. Her win made it back to back years of taking first place at this event. She also earned two Gold medals in two events at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. The wins made her the first American woman to win a gold medal in snowboarding. Although the season is not over, she won the 2016 Burton US Open Halfpipe.
Kim’s achievements have earned her a sponsorship from Target, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States next to Walmart. At just 5-foot-2 and 115 pounds Kim can perform multiple twists and turns in mid-air down a ski slope or within a “half-pipe” – a semi-enclosed structure made on the ski slopes with steep embankments used for snowboarders to perform tricks. Kim was the first woman to land two 1080s (3 full turns in the air) spins in the air during competition.
A native of Long Beach, California, Kim learned to snowboard at age 4 and started competing at 6. She has yet to compete in the Winter Olympics due to her age but should be available in 2018 when the Olympics are held in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Mariners sign South Korean First Baseman
The Seattle Mariners signed South Korean baseball star Dae-Ho Lee to its roster hoping that the 33-year-old can add offense to the Mariners line up. A right-handed first baseman, Lee has played in Japan for the past four seasons but played in Korea for 10 years prior to that. Lee was part of the South Korean baseball team that won gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
Lee, appropriately nicknamed, “Big Boy” is 6-foot-4-inches and weighs in at nearly 300 pounds (287 pounds to be exact). According to reports he’s lost a considerable amount of weight to prepare for his shot with the Mariners.
Lee’s father passed away when he was a toddler and his mother was not there for him as a youth so he was raised by his grandmother. However, his grandmother passed away when he was a teenager so he was forced to fend for himself. Despite a harsh childhood, Lee has turned into a successful baseball player. Hopefully, he can provide some much-needed hitting for the Mariners this season.
Sounders lose key player to Chinese Team
The Seattle Sounders began its Major League Soccer season this month in hopes of its elusive quest to win a title. With one of its most dedicated fan bases in the MLS, the team is set to make another run. However, it will have to do it without forward Obafemi Martins. The 31-year-old Nigerian-born soccer player was signed by the Shanghai Greenland Shenhua (known as “The Blue Devils”) of the Chinese Super League.
The league in China made some noise recently. It paid the Sounders $2 million as the “transfer fee” to obtain the contract rights to Martins.
Martins came to the Sounders in March 2013 as it paid $4 million to buyout his contract from a soccer club in Spain. After a successful season with the club, he signed a three-year deal which doubled his salary. He was one of three MLS MVP finalists in 2014. Martins was named the MVP of the team the past two seasons. He scored 40 goals and 23 assists in his 3 seasons with the Sounders. This year the club will need to find another source for offense without Martins.
Yao a finalist for Hall of Fame
Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming was one of the 10 finalists to be considered for the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame. The announcement was made this past February during NBA All-Star Weekend. The announcement will take place in April with inductions at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts occurring in September.
The 7-foot-6 Yao was the first player from China to play in the NBA. In his career he averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds. Yao was an 8-time All-Star and named to the All-NBA Team 5 times. Yao became one of the most popular athletes in China. The NBA benefitted from Yao’s popularity as many in China began to follow the Rockets and Yao.
Since he retired from the NBA in 2011, Yao has been involved in several business ventures including making his own wine. Yao established Yao Family Wines in Napa Valley, California. According to a Wall Street Journal report in 2015, the winery is valued at $15 million. Through crowdfunding, it has secured investors to establish tasting rooms in Napa as well as in Shanghai. The price of Yao’s wines range from $85 a bottle to $238 per bottle.
He’s also the spokesperson for a campaign to end the consumption of sharks. Although shark fin soup has been considered a delicacy in China, Yao is calling for a halt to it citing the decreasing population of sharks.