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Basketball legend Mu Tiezhu dies at 59
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Former Chinese basketball star Mu Tiezhu died of heart attack in Beijing on Sunday noon, No. 309 PLA Hospital announced on Sunday afternoon. Mu was 59.

Mu Tiezhu (C) was a household name in China in the 1970s and 1980s. [File photo]

Mu, who stood 2.28 meters, two centimeters taller than Chinese NBA star Yao Ming, was a household name in China in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yao Ming and his "Yao's Team" of Chinese and American agents heard the news of Mu's death while having a charity tour of southwest China's Sichuan which was devastated by a deadly earthquake on May 12.

"Mu Tiezhu and I represent two different generations of Chinese basketball centers," said Yao. "When people talk about 'towering centers', they would never forget Mu Tiezhu."

Yao first met Mu when he trained with the Chinese under-18 team. "I looked up to him when I first saw him," he said. "Not literally. I mean I admired him very much."

Yao added he was sadded by Mu's death as much as Wilt Chamberlain's. Chamberlain, the legendary NBA star idolized by Yao Ming, died at 62 in 1999.

"Mu was the only super center in Asia during his player career and he developed a classic Chinese playing style which is still used by Yao Ming," said Xu Jicheng, the BOCOG's deputy media director and the executive deputy director of the Main Press Center for the ongoing Paralympic Games.

Xu, a former hoopster who is also the best known basketball commentator in China, said Mu "read the game better" than Yao Ming, but the younger generation of Chinese centers including Yao, Wang Zhizhi and Menk Bateer are "more athletic and physically stronger".

The towering center joined the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 1972 and made it to the Bayi (Chinese Army) team in 1973. Four years later, Mu was called to the national team.

Mu led the Chinese team to its first Asian championship title in 1977, the Asian Games gold medal in 1978 and an 11th-place finish in the world championship the same year.

Mu, who averaged over 20 points, had once scored 80 points in a domestic game.

The basketball giant ended his playing career in 1987 to coach the Bayi team and moonlight in movie business. He starred in a few comedy movies, such as "The Silly Manager", "Dark Corridor" and "Overnight Singing Star".

Mu, who had the PLA rank as a senior colonel of the civil service, retired in 2000.

His last public appearance was at the Chinese women's team's Olympic game against the Czech Republic on Aug. 17.

Mu is survived by his wife Wang Zhuanhong and two adult children.

(Xinhua News Agency September 14, 2008)

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