The last and final day may have been the craziest, most chaotic day I’ve had in a long time! Upon waking up at around 8 a.m., packing up my room, and checking out, I headed up to a quick breakfast with the rookies (Alando and D.J.). LB was already down and we were just waiting on Steve.
Leandro Barbosa and Aaron Nelson. (Aaron Nelson/Suns Photos)
We had a bus departing at 10 a.m. for the grand opening of Yao Ming’s health club – California Fitness Yao Ming (sister company to 24 Hour Fitnress). As we walked out to the bus, Steve and LB signed autographs for several fans, some who drove over 1,500 miles just to get an autograph. A couple of the grils began crying because they were so excited to get the autographs – You might have thought it was the Beatles!
We arrived at a square downtown in which the introduction of the club would take place. We all met Jackie Chan and proceeded to an area with an outdoor stage and some chairs. About 100 media and supporters were present, while the nearby streets and shops were lined with thousands of fans trying to get a picture or autograph of some of the stars. Yao arrived and the opening ensued. As we were being escorted up to the club (video footage coming soon), the 10 or so security guards we had were no match for the rabid fans. People were pushing and fighting to get close to the players, some just to touch them. Security was hurling people out of the way without hesitation. I was just waiting to be one of the unlucky individuals to take a beating. I stayed close to Steve and Leandro, although I’m still not sure if that was a good or bad idea. I also had to push some people away from LB as they were getting out of control. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. OUT OF CONTROL!
Following good-byes with Yao, agent Bill Duffy, and BDA Sports’ Bill Sanders, we got back on our bus and headed to the airport. After waiting a little while, we boarded Bing’s plane and took off for Russia. The flight lasted about 5 ½ hours, but this time no one got off the plane. Everyone stayed where they were and slept. Steve and Baron Davis slept on the couches in the back of the plane and I took the same floor space I had on the way to China. Everyone else was passed out in their seats. After less than an hour of refueling, we headed off to Seattle – about a 6 ½ hour flight. We all continued to sleep until the last 4 minutes in which everyone started to wake up. We landed in Seattle and said our good-byes to Baron Davis, Amir Johnson and Paul Davis.
As I finish this blog, we are about 45 minutes from Phoenix. The only ones left are Steve, LB, Alando, D.J., Chuck Hayes, Bing, Jody, our flight attendant and our two pilots. Both to and from China, our flight attendant took very good care of all of us, trying to make sure we were always comfortable and well fed.
I hate to use the cliché, but this has been a whirlwind trip! It was an incredible experience for such a short time. Steve and Yao did something incredible for the underprivileged children in China with help from many of their NBA and Chinese friends, as well as their agencies. Bing Hu played a big part in the event and was generous enough to fly us over on his private plane so we would not have to make the trip commercially. They told us that the money from the event will help build about70 schools in China so that young children can now have the education that may have passed them by. You should all know the compassion and love Steve and Yao have for such a great cause. The players were grateful to be a part of such an event. Leandro is now looking at doing an event with Steve, similar to this one, to be held in Brazil. You don’t always get a chance to see what these players do to give back to the community, but I have been able to see first hand.
We are getting close to our descent into Phoenix and I cannot wait to see my wife and son! I hope to see many of you reading this at some Suns games as we make another run for the championship. Training camp starts in about two weeks and our first exhibition game is in about three weeks!
Go Suns!!! – and Steelers!