|Former NBA player Yao Ming (2nd L, back) cheers for little players during a basketball match of the eastern division of the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season, in Lu'an City, east China's Anhui Province, Aug. 15, 2013. The basketball season was held to let the children in impoverished regions to enjoy the happiness of sports and grow up healthily. (Xinhua/Chen Li)|
Former NBA star Yao Ming is urging society to let sport return to its original function of bringing joy to children, as the country debates the recent failure of the Chinese basketball team in the FIBA Asia Championship.
China's hoops icon Yao remained silent about the team's performance but stressed more attention should be paid to the game's fundamentals.
"Any sports competition originated from a kind of game, and games bring people happiness. That's the simple but profound function of sport - a simple thing that people tend to neglect," Yao told China Daily during the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season in Lu'an, Anhui province, last week.
"On a higher level, the function will extend to more meanings like showing a nation's prowess, which is widely promoted now. But what we lack is just the small joy at the foundation."
The Hope Primary School Basketball Season, a charitable program, carries the star's commitment to benefit students in underprivileged areas through their participation in basketball, which can teach children the virtues of teamwork, leadership and socializing.
Initiated by the Yao Foundation and the China Youth Development Foundation last year, the event reached 79 hope schools (37 more than last year) over a two-month stretch, during which college volunteers instructed children in basketball skills and sports facilities were donated.
As the finale of the season's eastern conference, a six-day training camp and exhibition game were held at West Anhui University in Lu'an, with 370 students from 19 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions joining to share experiences.
Yao visited the camp and organized a group birthday party the previous evening for students born in August.