Ex-NBA star Yao Ming at­tends bas­ket­ball friendly in Py­ongyang

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

For­mer NBA star Yao Ming at­tended a friendly bas­ket­ball match be­tween China and North Korea in Py­ongyang on Thurs­day amid warm­ing ties be­tween the neigh­bors.

The eight-time NBA all-star is vis­it­ing the North Korean cap­i­tal this week as part of a highlevel Chi­nese sports del­e­ga­tion.

Choe Ry­ong-hae – one of the clos­est aides to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – and China’s Sports Min­is­ter Gou Zhong­wen also watched the men’s friendlies at the Ryu­gy­ong Jong Ju Yong sta­dium.

Three gen­er­a­tions of North Korean lead­ers are sports fans.

For­mer leader Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il have in­spected foot­ball fields and watched foot­ball matches on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

Kim Jong-il also loves bas­ket­ball, and his book­case re­port­edly holds video­tapes of nearly all of Jor­dan’s games dur­ing his time with the bulls.

Jor­dan’s au­to­graphed bas­ket­ball was given to him by for­mer US sec­re­tary of state Madeleine Al­bright dur­ing a visit to north Korea in 2000.

Kim, an avowed NBA fan who met for­mer Chicago Bull Den­nis Rod­man sev­eral times in Py­ongyang, was not present.

Af­ter the match, ex-Hous­ton Rock­ets cen­ter Yao Ming posed for pho­tos with both Chi­nese and North Korean play­ers.

Yao Ming, at 2.29 me­ters (7 foot 6), was one of the tallest play­ers in the NBA and be­came a global am­bas­sador for the sport dur­ing his eight NBA sea­sons.

He con­tin­ued pro­mot­ing the game af­ter he was forced into re­tire­ment by re­peated foot in­juries and is now the head of the Chi­nese Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

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