China’s NBA legend Yao Ming to lead Hong Kong handover anniversary exhibition game

Chinese basketball icon to hand-pick stars from NBA and mainland for July 29 match at Hong Kong Coliseum as part of 20th anniversary celebrations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 1:18pm

Basketball legend Yao Ming will lead an exhibition match in Hong Kong this summer through the annual “Yao Foundation Charity Tour” as part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the handover, a source close to the organisers has disclosed.

Chinese sports icon Yao will hand-pick star players from the NBA and the mainland to feature in the game, scheduled for July 29 at the 12,000-seat Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom.

“We don’t have too many chances to watch the performance of NBA players in Hong Kong and it will definitely be exciting news for the fans,” said the source.

“Basketball is a very popular sport in Hong Kong especially with the extensive coverage of NBA here, while Yao is also a household name in Hong Kong despite his retirement a couple of years ago.

“We tried securing a whole NBA team but it was very difficult as the preseason schedule is fixed. However the new plan should satisfy many basketball fans.”

The list of players is still under discussion, according to the source, but will be announced once it has been confirmed.

“There are still a couple of months to go and we’ll provide more details closer to the game,” he said.

A former Houston Rockets centre for eight seasons from 2002 to 2011, Yao is one of the most successful overseas players in the history of the NBA.

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He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 and was selected five times for the annual NBA All-Star game.

However, Yao’s career was plagued by a series of foot and ankle injuries. He did not play the 2009–2010 season and only resumed the following campaign, but soon after announced his retirement in 2011.

Yao was also elected the Chinese Basketball Association president two months ago in an attempt to revamp the popular game in the mainland.

It will be a busy summer for sports fans in Hong Kong, as the English Premier League Asia Trophy will also take place in late July featuring three Premier League sides headed by Liverpool, with Leicester and Southampton rumoured for inclusion.

Hong Kong may even host both match days on July 19 and 22, with a packed Chinese Super League fixture schedule leaving a planned date in Shanghai in doubt.

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Real Madrid have also been approached to play in the tournament but the La Liga giants turned down the opportunity, with a tour in the United States already set for their preseason.

In snooker, an invitation tournament featuring top players such as Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Ronnie O’Sullivan and home favourite Marco Fu Ka-chun is also planned for July 20-23 at Queen Elizabeth Stadium. Hong Kong’s newly crowned women’s champion Ng On-yee will also be featured as a guest player.