Burton: Kai Sotto is the new Yao Ming

Kai Sotto’s impact to Philippine basketball is comparable to what Yao Ming did in China during his playing career with the Houston Rockets in the NBA. Photo courtesy of Kai Sotto / Instagram
Kai Sotto’s impact to Philippine basketball is comparable to what Yao Ming did in China during his playing career with the Houston Rockets in the NBA. Photo courtesy of Kai Sotto / Instagram

Add Adelaide 36ers coach CJ Burton to the growing list of basketball pundits who are branding Kai Sotto as the modern-day version of Chinese superstar Yao Ming.

In an article posted on the National Basketball League website, Burton said the impact that Sotto is making in the Philippines is comparable to that of Yao Ming during his glory days in the FIBA tournaments, the Olympics and the National Basketball Association.

Ming, the 7-foot-6 giant from Shanghai, put China on the world basketball map when the Rockets tapped him as the first overall pick of the 2002 NBA Rookie Draft.

His inclusion in the NBA – the most prestigious professional basketball league in the world – opened the eyes of the Americans to the potential of the vast Asian market, opening a lot of opportunities not just in sports, but in other economic activities as well.

Although Yao's career was plagued with injuries, he was still voted to the NBA All-Star Game eight times and had his jersey No. 11 retired by the Rockets organization, thanks to the massive support of Chinese basketball fans.

Now, he is serving as the team owner of the Shanghai Sharks and president of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Burton said he considers Sotto as the second coming of Yao.

"Yao Ming is big in China and Kai Sotto is the Philippines' version of Yao Ming," Burton said, adding that they will be behind Sotto in his bid to become the first full-blooded Filipino to play in the NBA.

"He is still learning. Kai is going to keep evolving, keep developing, and he is going to help us get to where we need to go."

In the ongoing NBL season, Sotto has been averaging 6.07 points, 3.93 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 15 games.

His best game so far was 16 points and seven rebounds in the 36ers' 70-99 loss to the New Zealand Breakers last 28 October.

He also made a lot of heads turn when he logged 11 points, two rebounds, two steals and one assist in a preseason game against a solid NBA contender in the Phoenix Suns in a friendly match on 3 October. Adelaide won, 134-124, against a Suns side that was powered by NBA stars Chris Paul, DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker.

Still, Burton asserted that the 20-year-old slotman has to brush up on his skills to get noticed.

"Kai Sotto is a promising player when he puts it all together," Burton said, adding that the Filipino should not get disheartened despite getting snubbed in the previous NBA Draft.

"Not everyone gets drafted, but it's not the end of the world. He talks the right way like most kids in this competition, but now you need to play the right way and do it for yourself."

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