So I had this e-mail announcing the Maryland Nighthawks' signing of 7-foot-9 Chinese superstar Sun Ming Ming e-mailed to me by literally my entire readership (at least six different people). If you're trying to get sports writers to a press conference, you have to admit that offering a 7-foot-9 basketball player and free Chinese food (at Meiwah, no less) is a pretty solid start. I'll boycott the food, naturally, to remain objective.
The Washington Times has already written of Sun's impending arrival in a Nighthawks jersey, although they called him 7-8. DCist scribe and Local Poll voter Andrew Wiseman did a long (har) item on Sun yesterday, pointing out that he's scheduled to appear in Rush Hour 3 fighting Chris Tucker. The Nighthawks are calling Sun "the tallest player in the history of professional basketball," which is actually the "Why" on the press release. (Full Why: "Towering over his competition at 7'9", Sun Ming Ming joins the Nighthawks as the tallest player in the history of professional basketball."
I figured the topic had pretty much been covered, but then early in the second quarter of last night's Wizards game, Sun appeared, accompanied by new teammate Randy "White Chocolate" Gill. Randy gave me permission to interview Sun, but it was loud and hard to hear. All I learned was that his favorite NBA team is the Spurs, he had never been to a Wizards game before, and he claims to wear a relatively modest Size 20 shoe. Maybe I mis-heard that part.
Randy's been working out with Sun, and he senses promise.
"I see him improving every day," Randy said. "I think he's going to be a very great player."
Randy's played with a lot of tall people. He's played with Big Gheorghe. He said that, like Gheorghe, Sun has a good feel for the game, decent agility for his height, a nice passing touch; "they have a good skill level for extremely tall fellas," Randy said.
Sun's new coach, Will Rankin, was also there. Will's be on the job for about three days; the Nighthawks just made a midseason coaching switch. Will has been associated with various minor-league teams over the past several years, and he used to be an assistant coach at NOVA's Annandale campus, which probably makes him overqualified for the ABA.
"My job is to bring [Sun] up to speed, to get him ready for the next level," Will said. "He's very agile, he's a quick study. We're in a program to get his motion a little better. A little more optimal performance training, and he'll be ready for the next level."
And, as Randy pointed out, "his height is very good....I think he's going to be a great player in the NBA one day."
At the end of the night, Big Gheorghe appeared. Information Leafblower and I waited around to try to get the perfect photo, but it never happened. Will and Randy and Gheorghe talked for a long while. I asked Big Gheorghe about Sun.
"I tell him maybe I try to train him a little bit," Big Gheorghe said. And he confirmed that Sun was the taller fella.
More from the press conference shortly.