Bill Clinton backs the basketball star's cash-raising drive A fund-raising drive on Shanghai's sports TV channel hosted by basketball star Yao Ming raised more than US$340,000 for the fight against Sars. Messages of support came from many of the star's fans, including former US president Bill Clinton. The show, broadcast on Sunday night included Qi Hong, a member of China's national soccer team, Sun Wen, the top player in the nation's women's soccer side, and Jorg Albertz, a former member of Germany's national soccer team who plays for Shanghai Shenhua. Yao, 23, who plays for the Houston Rockets, answered questions from viewers sent in over the Internet and spent an hour in an interview talking about his career, his new life in the United States and what it felt like to return to Shanghai. He read out a message of support from Mr Clinton who called on everyone to do their utmost to contribute to the struggle against Sars and to help medical workers against the risk of the disease. Mr Clinton described himself as Yao's loyal friend and a basketball fan. Other messages came from Yao's colleagues in the National Basketball Association, including Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson and commissioner David Stern. 'Yao Ming supports his country and we will support Yao Ming,' said Mr Stern. 'As an important member of the NBA, we are proud of Yao.' Yao said of the Sars fight: 'It is a long war and a war of the spirit. Everybody is working hard to win it. I firmly believe that we will do it in the end.' The money will go to the Chinese Red Cross in the name of four medical workers who died fighting the disease. Wang Xiaoping, Yao's lawyer, said that the telethon had been the star's own idea. 'There is no other media that has this kind of impact. For its part, the television station was keen on the idea, so both sides agreed,' the lawyer said. Yao returned last month to Shanghai, his home town, at the end of the NBA season.