Ex-NBA star center Yao Ming in ManilaBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines – Former NBA superstar Yao Ming arrived here Saturday night on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 337 for the two-day exhibition matches between his Shanghai Sharks and the country’s best players.
The Sharks, whose players include a pair of national team mainstays in seven-foot-three Zhang Zhaoxu and veteran point guard Liu Wei arrived Friday night, will play the Gilas Pilipinas national team on May 6 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum before going up against the PBA All-Star selection squad, to be coached by Air21′s Franz Pumaren, the next day at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“This will be the start of friendly matches, clinics and other close interaction with powerhouse countries in sports. Our national as well as the grassroots program will benefit from learning from the best,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese Minister of Sport Liu Peng in Beijing on August 2011.
Ming, the top overall pick by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft, and his Sharks, who are also with their coach Wang Qun, team manager Fu Jiajun, team director Fei Genwei, assistant director Yuan Qiang, Vice GM Zhang Chi, EA to GM Zhang Peizhong and interpreter Guo Weisheng, will also hold a basketball clinic for the less fortunate kids at the PSC-PhilSports Arena in Pasig City apart from paying a courtesy call to Vice President Jejomar Binay at his office in Coconut Palace.
The games, backed by ATC Pharmaceuticals, Friends of the Philippines Foundation, Anchorland, Vikings and Oishi, will be televised live.
Other players of the Sharks include Wang Yong, Wang Ligang, Meng Lingyuan, Liu Ziqiu, Cai Liang, Ge Yang, Wu Yang, Wang Sizhang, Zhai Yi and Zhang Yuan.
The 32-year-old eight-time All-Star played 10 seasons in the NBA before announcing his early retirement in 2011 due to recurring foot and ankle injuries.