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Any excuse for a trip to China

Updated: 2012-12-05 02:44
By TANG ZHE in Chengdu ( China Daily)

Ex-NBA All-Star Shaquille O'Neal says he will come for games, events — even movies

As more and more NBA players filter into China, Shaquille O'Neal, an all-time basketball great, is also working on tightening his relationship with the country.

The retired NBA All-Star center won't be putting his hightops back on anytime soon, but he is more than willing to play other roles in China, as he said at the launch of the NBA New Year celebration game, which will be held between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Feb 13, the fourth day of Chinese New Year.

"I love Chinese people, and if you want to invite me to attend any kind of shows, programs or events, I would be very pleased to do it," said the 40-year-old, who appeared in a show at the Spring Festival gala of a Chinese TV channel this year.

In addition to his stellar basketball career, O'Neal has released rap albums, appeared in several films and starred in his own reality shows. The kung fu enthusiast has also sought out Chinese directors to appear in kung fu movies.

"To any Chinese director in China, if you want me to star in your kung fu movie or Chinese drama movie, call me, and I would be happy to do it. I have always loved Chinese kung fu movies," said the center, who surprised the crowd by saying he wants to be a black Shaolin monk if there is a next life.

A close friend of retired Chinese NBA star Yao Ming and a regular visitor to China, O'Neal said he is impressed by the fast growth of the CBA and the overwhelming popularity of basketball in China.

"The CBA has emerged to be a powerful ally with the NBA. You have got a lot of great players to come over here to play, like Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas, so the CBA is worldwide now," said O'Neal.

"Basketball has become part of the Chinese culture now. We watched a game last night. It was very competitive. Yao's team (Shanghai Sharks) beat McGrady's team (Qingdao Eagles). I watched the game at the airport and I saw many Chinese people watching it. The arena was packed; the fans were going crazy.

"It's a great sport to watch, people asked us about great Chinese players, like Yao Ming. He was a fabulous player, and there are a lot of guys in the CBA that I think can play in the NBA," he said. "The CBA is similar to the NBA, and it's great to have the CBA here in China."

Though O'Neal and Yao retired last year, another battle of the two behemoths could be in the cards.

"We've had many talks about a one-on-one battle between Yao and myself, or Yao and a lucky Chinese fans versus me and a lucky Chinese fan, or Team Yao versus Team Shaq, and we would tour all over China," O'Neal said.

"We have been talking about it for almost a year, and we will set it up very soon."

Contact the writer at tangzhe@chinadaily.com.cn

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