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China Daily Website

Stars answer Yao's call

Updated: 2013-07-01 18:33
By Sun Xiaochen ( chinadaily.com.cn)

From simply a player on court to a player behind the scenes, Yao Ming has been enjoying his transition into charity organizer.

As the initiator of the Yao Foundation Charity Game, the former NBA all-star's participation in the program has changed hugely since his retirement from basketball in 2011.

What used to be just shooting hoops to entertain the fans in the gala game now involves inviting other NBA stars, maintaining sponsor relations and even bargaining for the best venue rents.

"I've already eaten a couple of take-away box meals with our staff members and am more aware of how tough it is to organize an event like this," said Yao, who initiated his first charity game with NBA star Steve Nash in 2007 before establishing his foundation in 2008.

"But I have gained immense satisfaction by doing these things to help the children."

To set up this year's game, which will be held at the MasterCard Center on Monday night, Yao stayed in the capital for a week in advance to meet event partners, talk to the media and examine the venue operations.

Despite good relationships with many NBA players, luring a group of stars from across the Pacific is far more difficult and entails much more than just making phone calls. Accommodation has to be arranged, as does transport and a million other things.

Yao's invitation received a quick response.

"I was chilling on my bed watching the TV and I got a call from overseas," Joakim Noah, the Chicago Bulls' center who will play on Monday said as he recalled Yao's invitation call.

"For some reason, I picked it up and he said ‘Hey, what's up. It's Yao'. As soon as Yao asked me, I definitely wanted to do something."

It's Noah's first time visiting China and he said it's an honor that the trip has something to do with charity.

"We are very privileged to be able to play basketball and help the kids in China. I just started my foundation and it's a great learning opportunity from guys like Yao. Obviously, Yao is more than just a basketball player, he is an ambassador of the sport."

Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), Yao's former teammate on the Houston Rockets, said Yao's hands-on participation impressed him.

"He called me personally. I was surprised and I thought it was supposed to be his assistant, not like him personally."

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