FORMER NBA superstar Yao Ming emphasized the importance of basketball in improving relations between the Philippines and China.
The towering 7-foot-6 Chinese arrived on Saturday night, and the country whose passion for basketball has been boundless, readily welcomed the biggest basketball sensation out of Asia with a sumptuous welcome dinner.
In his brief speech, Yao said basketball is a perfect tool in developing relations between the two countries because of their mutual interest in the sport.
“Sports is something that can connect people from different cities and different countries,” Yao said during the dinner held at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati.
The former Houston Rockets center is in the country in his capacity as team owner of the Shanghai Sharks, who are scheduled to play two exhibition games against the national team and a PBA selection this week.
The Sharks team arrived on Friday night.
Dubbed the `Philippines-China Basketball Friendship Games’ the Sharks will be facing Gilas Pilipinas on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena before taking on a PBA selection on Tuesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Before the matches, the Sharks will be conducting basketball clinics for less fortunate kids from Pasay City and Quezon City on Sunday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
“We can find a lot of interest that we can share and exchange together, improve on our interest in basketball,” said Yao on the clinics.
Yao, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2002 draft, said he’s looking forward to seeing more of the Philippines.
“It’s one of the countries that I haven’t been in Asia,” said Yao, during an impromptu press conference with the media at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.