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Yao Ming arrives in Taiwan for cross-strait hoop tourney

Former NBA star Yao Ming yesterday arrived in Taiwan to attend a three-day cross-strait basketball tournament. It is the former Houston Rockets All-Star center's fifth visit to Taipei but the first in his capacity as owner of the Shanghai Dongfang Sharks.

The Sharks and three teams from Taiwan and China will be competing in the tournament, which began yesterday and will run through Sunday in Taipei and the central city of Taichung.

Though here for the competition, local media yesterday were more interested in asking Yao about his views on NBA sensation Jeremy Lin, the first-ever Taiwanese-American NBA player and a newcomer to the Rockets.

“He (Lin) told me that he will not be joining us for the cross-strait cup,” Yao told reporters with his trademark smile.

Yao said the Houston point guard is doing a brilliant job in the NBA by “walking on a path that no one has gone before.

“So I could not give any advice to him, I could only give him my blessing to stay healthy and keep doing his best,” Yao added.

The 229-cm-tall former NBA player — one of China's best-known athletes — has had a close relationship with Lin.

Lin once said he talked to Yao after every game and sees him as a role model and mentor.

Yao, 32, was drafted by the Rockets in 2002. The eight-time NBA All-Star racked up an average of 19 points and 9.2 rebounds over the eight seasons he played for Houston, before announcing his retirement in the summer of 2011.

In July 2009, Yao purchased his former club team, the Shanghai Sharks, which were on the verge of not being able to play the next Chinese pro basketball league season due to financial troubles.

The 2012 Straits Cup tournament also features the Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank team of the Chinese pro league CBA and a pair of home teams — local semiprofessional league SBL defending champions Pure Youth Construction and the Dacin Tigers, last season's runner-up.

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NBA star Yao Ming (姚明) towers over all in a press conference for a cross-strait basketball tournament in Taipei, yesterday. Yao, Chinese Taipei Basketball Association Chairman Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), sixth left, and Sports Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chien Wei-chuan (錢薇娟), fifth left, attended a press event for the tournament in Taipei. (CNA)

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