Facing rumors about his potential retirement from the national team, NBA star center Yao Ming answered with a brilliant 39-point performance in China's 69-62 victory over New Zealand in a preliminary group A match of the Athens Olympics men's basketball here on Tuesday.
"My dream is our national team playing like this every game," Yao told Xinhua after the opening victory for the Asian champions at the basketball gala.
His side's 83-58 defeat to Spain on Sunday still hurt, but Yao was recovering.
"We were playing with a different team (today), but the most important thing is that we should always play the way we played today," Yao said.
The Chinese, who had a sluggish second half against the Spaniards, outlasted the New Zealanders in the hotly contested match, in which the 2.26-meter Yao had 26 fouls on him.
"It was a physical game, but we were not afraid," Yao said. "When challenged, we fight back."
Yao did fight back.
Following Sean Marks' dunk on his head to pull New Zealand within 52-47 with seven minutes and 33 seconds on the clock, Yao pushed Dillon Boucher, who approached him saying something in a defiant manner, to the ground.
"It's nothing big," Yao said. "I said hello to him after the match."
"When the game was hotly contested, such kind of defiance couldnot be allowed," Yao added. "I also had to admit that it was no good feeling to have somebody dunk on you."
Boucher declined to reveal his words that offended Yao.
"I'd better not repeat it," he said.
New Zealand displayed its determination to win at the beginningof the match. Arrayed in its own half court, the New Zealanders murmured and swayed arms and fisted hands in front of the Chinese,who were doing shooting around, before the whistle.
However, it did not work on Yao and his team.
"I have seen this three times," Yao said. "Maybe it's their custom."
"I think we can also play some Shaolin Kongfu in our next encounter," he added.
Del Harris, the first international coach in history for the Chinese men's national team, inspired Yao to improve from his 12 points finish against Spain on Sunday to a highest-scoring performance at the Olympics.
"The coach told me before the game that I should shoot more andpass less," said Yao, who shot 15-for-20 from the field and 9-for-13 from the line. "I did as he said and fortunately it worked out for our team today."
(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2004)