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Ex-NBA player Tracy McGrady is greeted by thousands of screaming fans as he lands in Qingdao for the next step in his career, Lei Lei and Xie Chuanjiao report.
Surrounded by more than 100 photographers and about 2,000 screaming fans, former NBA star Tracy McGrady arrived in Qingdao, his new basketball home, on Wednesday morning.
The seven-time NBA All-Star will add a new chapter to his storied on-court career with the Qingdao Double Star Eagles during the 2012-2013 CBA season, which starts in late November, and his goal is a championship.
"I am looking forward to playing here for the following four months," McGrady said on Wednesday.
"Winning the CBA championship is my ultimate goal. It will take a lot of work and dedication. For myself, I just want to go out and make my team better. I hope whatever we do, we can look back and say we gave it our all.
After landing in Qingdao at 8:40 am, the 2.03-meter forward appeared in front of fans and media 30 minutes later.
His appearance drew hundreds of flashing cameras and loud shouts of his nickname, "T-Mac", from the fans.
Dai Yawei, a sophomore at Qingdao Technological University, was among an early group who arrived at the airport at 6 am to greet their idol.
"McGrady has been my favorite basketball player since 2003," Dai told China Daily. "I will definitely go to watch him play and cheer for him."
In his prime, McGrady was a game-changer in the NBA. He once scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to lead the Houston Rockets to a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Dec 9, 2004.
He has a huge fan base in China, not only because he played with China's basketball icon, Yao Ming, in Houston, but also because of his remarkable skills.
"I started to admire him as early as 2001. When I heard he would play in China I told myself that no matter which city he played in, I would move there," said Xu Guobin, 30, a salesman who works in Qingdao, while holding a poster of McGrady newspaper reports.
"When I heard he was going to play in Qingdao I was overjoyed. There are so many fans here. I just saw his waving hand, but that was enough for me to be in tears now."
After representing the Atlanta Hawks last season, McGrady failed to secure an NBA contract for the upcoming season and was reportedly considering retirement until he was approached by Qingdao. Although he admits knowing "only a little" about the CBA, McGrady hopes to emulate what Stephon Marbury has done in China. The former NBA All-Star guard led the Beijing Ducks to the CBA championship last season.
"I know very little about the CBA. Nevertheless, that doesn't matter. I'm excited about it and I can't wait to play," said the 33-year-old.
"I think China is the place where I have the most loyal and passionate fans. I played in the NBA for 15 years. The time was just perfect for me to come here to play.
"I look forward to building chemistry with my Chinese teammates and seeing what will happen. I look forward to bringing a championships here."
Suffering a spate of injuries in recent year, McGrady averaged a career-low 5.3 points in 16 minutes per game last season with Atlanta.
But he said he is in fine shape now.
"My physical condition is great. I'm in great shape," said McGrady, who has chosen to wear the No 9 jersey with the Qingdao Eagles. "I feel good and I'm healthy."
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(China Daily 10/25/2012 page24)