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30 years later, Wizards to go back to China
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Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian M.Fenty (R,4th) and Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong (L,2nd) pose with officers and players of Washington Wizards in Washington D.C., capital of the United States of America, Aug. 26, 2009. The NBA team, Washington Wizards, will pay a visit to China from Sept.5 to 15, 2009 to mark the 30th anniversary for its first visit to China as Washington Bullets. They will visit Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Yingxiu, a town in Sichuan province heavily stricken by the earthquake on May 12, 2008.[Xinhua]

The Washington Wizards, the first NBA team to visit China, will send its franchise veterans and active players to pay a return trip in early September in commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Bullets' (now the Wizards) groundbreaking journey to China.

Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld, a star of the 1978 NBA champion Bullets, will be companied on the visit Sept. 5-15 by active Wizards all-star player Caron Butler and Randy Foye. 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan of Romania, one of the tallest men to play in the NBA and also another former Bullet, will also join the trip.

The Bullets were the first NBA team to travel to China in 1979, when Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping invited owner Abe Pollin shortly after the normalization of relations between China and the United States.

"It's significant that the Wizards pay a return visit to China, commemorating the special 30th anniversary between China and the United States," said Zhou Wenzhong, Chinese ambassador to the United States, in an interview with Xinhua. "We are supporting their trip because they want to review the history they made in 1979 and continue paying their contributions both to Sino-American relations and sports."

Washington Wizards player Caron Butler looks forward to his upcoming visit to China, in Washington D.C., the United States of America, Aug. 26, 2009.[Xinhua]

During their stay in China, the Wizards will participate in a series of basketball clinics in universities and high schools as well as engage in other philanthropic activities.

The visitors will travel to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and parts of the Sichuan province that were devastated by last year's massive earthquake.

It won't compare to the grand diplomatic efforts in 1979, when the defending champion Bullets played two games against the Chinese national team and the People's Liberation Army's Bayi team.

"It's an honor to be invited to return to China, I am eager to see the difference in 30 years there, and look forward to meeting some old friends," said Wes Unseld.

He stressed that it is a pity that he could not say hello to his tall Chinese rival Mu Tiezhu, who passed away last September.

"I know that there is an old Chinese saying 'He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man,'" all-star player Caron Butler said of the trip expectation, "I am a NBA player and I want to be a true man, so I have to reach the Great Wall."

With China's state television began showing NBA games in the late 1980s and especially with Yao Ming's entry to the Houston Rockets, China's basketball has boomed. NBA began to play their preseason games in China in 2004 and up till now there were six games played in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Macao.

(Xinhua News Agency August 27, 2009)

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