I originally wrote this article for the August 2016 edition of SLAM Magazine (SLAM No. 200).
Xinjiang, 7-2, C
For the next five years, Zhou slowly turned his promise to reality. He made his name in China’s youth circuits, destroyed Asian opponents, and become a young star in the Chinese Basketball Association.
But now, the skinny (listed at 218 lbs), 7-foot-2, 20-year-old from the city of Xinxiang is ready to bulk up into an even larger pair of shoes: after years of success in China, the young man must prove himself all over again in the United States.
“I want teams and fans in the US to know, first and foremost, that I’m a team player,” Zhou says. “I wanna be in an environment where I can help my teammates to be the best they can be.”
Zhou hopes to find long-term success in the league. But even before he ever steps on an NBA court, he’ll know that the weight of Yao be hanging over his slender shoulders.
“I don’t feel any pressure. If I can take the torch from Yao, I hope I can have a good career and pass the torch to someone to else. Right now, I just want to be myself.”