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Yao Wows the Crowds in Shanghai

Yao Ming scored 14 points to lead the Houston Rockets to victory over the Sacramento Kings 88-86 in the NBA's first China Game at Shanghai Stadium Thursday evening.


Playing at his hometown for the first time since joining the Houston Rockets during the 2002-2003 season, Yao seemed slightly nervous at first before the capacity crowd of more than 10,000. But the 2.26-meter center soon found his rhythm and scored his first basket four and a half minutes into the game, dunking on Tracy McGrady's assist.


Yao added seven rebounds and one block in 27 minutes before watching the final quarter from the bench.


McGrady added 12 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes for the Rockets.


Liu Wei, Yao's former teammate at the Shanghai Sharks, scored two points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 19 minutes at the NBA pre-season game.


Having being invited to train with the Kings, Liu, who won the CBA League championship with Yao in 2002, is hoping to be the first Asian guard to play in the NBA.


Reece Gaines made two free throws 34 seconds from the end to give the Rockets an 87-84 lead. Darius Songaila answered with two from the line to cut it to 87-86.


Tyronn Lue missed one of his two free throws 0.4 seconds later, but Juwan Howard blocked Songaila as the time went out to seal the victory for the Rockets.


Brad Miller scored a game-high 19 points with Mike Bibby and Chris Webber adding 17 and 14 respectively.


The Kings, 4-0 winners over Rockets in the 2003-2004 regular season, started strongly by racing to a 24-11 lead in the first quarter. The Rockets fought back early in the second as the Kings rested their starters to overtake the lead at 43-39. The third quarter was hotly contested with the Kings entering the fourth 72-67 up after a 5-0 run.


Yao was one of the first Chinese nationals to head to the NBA. After three years in the league - he was taken by the Rockets as the top draft choice in 2001 - he has established himself as one of the game's premier players.


Yao's popularity is such that more than half of the visits to NBA websites last season were from outside the United States - the first time this has happened. He twice garnered more All-Star votes than Shaquille O'Neal.


Forbes magazine put Yao at the top of its list of Chinese celebrities with an estimated income of $14.5 million, largely from endorsement deals.


The NBA's first China games, the second of which will be played in Beijing on Sunday, have attracted great interest around the world. The games will be televised in 176 countries, according to NBA officials. 


(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency October 15, 2004)

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