"MVP, MVP! " was what 23-year-old Chinese basketball player Ding Yanyuhang heard when he first stepped on the free-throw line during an NBA Summer League game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics in Las Vegas on Saturday..
Ding did not disappoint, scoring 11 points and securing three rebounds and one steal. As the game progressed through the third quarter, every time Ding touched the ball, fans broke into cheers.
Chinese fans were a rare sight in the arena, so it was mainly the US crowd behind the loud cheers. They took it up a notch by crying "We want Ding! We want Ding!" when the player was taken off court and replaced by a teammate.
In an interview after the game, Ding told reporters from Tencent Sports that he was really touched by and grateful to the cheers supporting him. He also said that he became more confident and was adapting better at the Mavericks.
After Saturday's game, Ding became the first Chinese basketball player after legend Yao Ming to receive "MVP" cheers in the NBA.
Yao was the first pick by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA draft. Ding was a stranger even to the fans of the team he is playing for before the 2017 Summer League. Still, he managed to woo the crowd and enjoy something most Chinese players who came before him could not even imagine.