Three the magic number for Yao

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Yao Ming, Chinese Basketball Association president. [Photo/China Daily]

Yao Ming reckons 3x3 basketball offers China a special chance to shine in the sport.

The Chinese Basketball Association is building toward 3x3's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 by staging a national 3x3 tournament, which is open to amateurs and professionals alike and offers members of the winning team the chance to play at the Games.

Speaking at a media conference for the Road to Olympics - National 3x3 Basketball Tournament in Beijing, Yao, an eight-time NBA All-Star who was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a center, joked he might come out of retirement to play point guard.

On a more serious note, the CBA president believes 3x3 has opened a new window of opportunity for Chinese basketball because, unlike the traditional five-on-five game, it is new to almost all countries.

"The first Olympic basketball tournament was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and after almost 30 years of development 3x3 basketball was announced to join the 2020 Summer Olympics, reshaping the history of the sport," Yao said.

"Through the new national tournament, lots of young athletes will have the chance to compete in the Olympics. This is a new start for Chinese basketball. By establishing this system early, we will achieve better results for the future of the sport."

As the exclusive business partner, Infront China is responsible for the business development of the nationwide tournament, which was launched in November.

The inaugural tournament includes qualifying, provincial and regional rounds, a north-south championship and the final national championship, in late April.

The tournament also fits into China's National Fitness Program, which is tasked with increasing the nation's participation in grassroots sports.

"We want to connect the National Fitness Program with the Olympics to give it new energy," said Yao.

"Through the Road to Olympics platform everyone can have a chance to display their skills, which can greatly benefit the nation's fitness."

Infront, a world-renowned sports marketing company with headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, is confident it can make the tournament its latest success story in Chinese basketball.

Infront China's involvement with the national team and the CBA has resulted in record levels of television coverage and sponsorship.

"We have been closely cooperating with Chinese basketball for 13 years, and we have made extraordinary contributions to the development of the Chinese basketball market," said Anne Zhao, managing director of Beijing-based Infront China.

"The new cooperation on the 3x3 basketball tournament is the latest milestone of our long-term partnership. We will try our best to make a new and healthy contribution to promote the development of the 3x3 basketball in China."

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