One of world’s most famous basketballers and member of international sporting royalty is set to touch down in New Zealand on Saturday morning, ahead of the MBO Tall Blacks verses China World Cup Qualifier, tipping off on 1 July.
NBA legend and former Chinese national player, Yao Ming, has confirmed his attendance with Basketball New Zealand. He will be travelling with a large delegation from China, as part of the FIBA 2019 World Cup’s Local Organising Committee (LOC). His other roles include President of the China Basketball Association and an Ambassador of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
New Zealander and Chairman of the LOC, Burton Shipley, says the group will be holding a number of sessions to see how New Zealand hosts an international basketball event and to foster ideas for the 2019 World Cup. He says it will be great to have Yao Ming’s presence and input during the visit.
“I have been delighted to establish a good relationship with Yao Ming. He is making huge changes to basketball in China. There are so many positive things that he is doing, including totally restructuring and becoming very much performance focused on the teams. I admire what he has done.
“He really contributes to our group significantly and I’ve learnt that he has a very good business mind, he can see things and think things through, and he is doing a fantastic job for us,” says Mr Shipley.
The stop in Auckland adds to a number of LOC global visits, which Shipley says is all part of building an adaptable and experienced team to prepare for the 2019 World Cup.
“We’ve looked to expand their experience. The first year, we took the group to Switzerland to the House of Basketball. We then took them to Lyon in France to see an international game there. Last year, we took them to Finland to see some of the Euro Cup games. We took them to Sweden as well, just so that they have an idea of how different people host around the world and how involved you can get a crowd. The trips have added to their knowledge and their view of how we could be doing things.
“They have been hoping to come to New Zealand for some time, so now we have the perfect opportunity with the China verses the Tall Blacks test in Auckland,” says Mr Shipley.
This is not the first time Yao Ming has visited New Zealand. He and his daughter slipped into the South Island unannounced on holiday in July 2016.
“He told me he’s only seen the airport in Auckland on his way to the South Island, so he is looking forward to coming and seeing a bit more of the country, but the whole team are looking forward to coming. We’ve tried to build in some typical Kiwi experiences for them. Some of the LOC members have been before. One of the leaders said he was very keen to see a typical Kiwi barbecue. So, we have organized a barbecue at a Kiwi home to offer a small insight into how New Zealanders live. Sharing our culture is important and we’re trying to give them a New Zealand experience while also getting the work done,” says Mr Shipley.
Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter says he’s looking forward to the global basketball community focusing on New Zealand this week and hosting Yao Ming, Burton Shipley and the LOC delegation.
“It’s fantastic that Burton, Yao Ming and the LOC have come to watch how we put on this event, but also to help promote the basketball World Cup and this qualifying series. Yao Ming’s visit is really significant and we’re delighted because it’s a further sign of the strengthening relationship between New Zealand basketball and China basketball, and the wider Asian region,” says Potter.
The MBO Tall Blacks play Hong Kong on Thursday night at Energy Events Centre, Rotorua. Tip off at 7pm. They then play China on Sunday at 3pm in Spark Arena, Auckland.