Bryant salutes Yao impact on China’s NBA dreams

SHANGHAI, (Reuters) – Yao Ming has made it possible  for young Chinese basketball players to chase their NBA dreams  and the country will produce more top quality players in the  coming years, All Star guard Kobe Bryant said yesterday. Several reports in the media have said that injury-plagued  Yao will officially announce his retirement from the game at a  news conference today.

Yao Ming

China’s state television CCTV would run a four-hour program  on the player, including a live broadcast of the news conference  at a hotel in Yao’s hometown Shanghai, the official Xinhua news  agency reported.

Yao became arguably Asia’s biggest sports figure when he was  selected first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA  draft.  “In terms of opening up doors for Chinese basketball players  to come to the NBA, or for the youth here in China to believe  that it’s possible to achieve the dream of being an NBA player,  all that started from Yao,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Bryant  said.

“The movement that started in the NBA of the influx of  European players coming to the NBA was started by Vlade Divac,  Dino Radja and those guys.  “Even that movement didn’t have the impact and magnitude  that Yao Ming has had. And on top of that, he’s just a heck of a  basketball player to boot,” Bryant, who is in China on a  promotional tour, added.

The seven-foot, six-inch (2.3-metre) Yao, an eight-times All  Star, has been plagued by assorted injuries in recent years and  missed the entire 2009-10 NBA season after suffering a fractured  bone in his left foot.

He played only five games for the Rockets last season before  being sidelined on Nov. 10 when he injured his ankle during the  a game.

Bryant felt Yao would leave a lasting legacy and more  Chinese players would make it to top-flight NBA teams.   “Since I have been coming here and doing clinics and  basketball camps with kids, you see the improvement year after  year and the determination to get better and the passion they  have for the game,” said Bryant.

“It’s just a matter of time.”

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