For Yao Ming's first NBA game, the Miami Heat passed out 8,000 fortune cookies. Ming had a surprising reaction.
To celebrate Chinese basketball star Yao Ming's first game, the NBA distributed 8,000 fortune cookies at a game in Miami on December 16, 2002. Yao Ming set the record straight on how he felt about the incident, which many called insensitive.
Your gut might tell you that a Chinese person could take offense at such a thing. Ming didn't take offense, but not necessarily for the reason you might think. To him, it wasn't a stereotype because he'd never seen a fortune cookie in China. He didn't interpret the fortune cookies to have anything to do with him. In fact, he found the whole thing to be amusing.
Because Ming was not familiar with American stereotypes of the Chinese, he didn't feel that he was being attacked or slighted in any way. It is actually a misconception that many Americans have that fortune cookies are common in China. Ming thought they were an American invention.
All of this debate took place within a larger context of controversy about the NBA. At the time Ming started his professional career in the US, the NBA was seen as not taking an active enough role in confronting the racism that Asians faced from fellow players.