Ex-NBA star Yao Ming attends basketball friendly in Pyongyang
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.