Houston Rockets star Yao Ming leads national team to victory
China has beaten South Korea to become the new men's Asian basketball champions, with the help of national legend and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.
Yao led his national team to a 106-96 victory in the men's final of the Asian competition, in a hard-fought match in the northeastern city of Harbin. His score of 30 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots for the home team was watched by an ecstatic crowd on China's National Day holiday both in the stadium and on national television networks.
While the win assured China of the sole Asian place at next year's Summer Olympics in Athens, the rest of the Chinese squad looked shaky in comparison with Yao, missing numerous easy layups and other shots.
Faced with Yao's dominance, the fast-attacking South Koreans turned to their best shooters, firing away 40 times from three-point territory. South Korean players made 17 of those three-pointers.
The South Koreans fought back behind the three point shooting of Lee Kyu-Sup and Moon Kyung-Eun to trail 83-82 with less than four minutes left in the game.
But just as it looked like the Chinese side was going to crack under pressure, little-used guard Fan Bin knocked down a key three-pointer and made six of seven free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Yao was named tournament MVP. Menke Bateer, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, also made an appearance on the national squad. However, the third member of China's moving "Great Wall" of NBA players, Wang Zhizhi, lost his place on the national team after he declined to join a summer training camp run by the Chinese Basketball Management Center (CBMC).