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Yao Ming stresses transparency in charity

By SUN XIAOCHEN (China Daily)

08:51, July 01, 2013

Former NBA star Yao Ming teaches basketball skills to a student from the Huilei School in Beijing's Changping district on Sunday. (CHINA DAILY / CUI MENG)

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Despite his fading personal influence and the public's growing suspicion of the credibility of charities, Yao Ming is determined to carry out his charitable commitment.

Although shifting between roles as a businessman, club owner and political adviser since he retired from basketball in 2011, Yao has sensed the decline of his popularity and its consequent effect on his charity program.

"Objectively, it (the decline) is happening and it happens to every retired athlete. I have to admit that it's getting harder to attract the attention that I used to," the former Houston Rockets' all-star center said after launching the 2013 Yao Foundation Charity Game on Saturday.

It's the third time Yao has lured a glittering NBA cast to join Chinese national representatives for the basketball-themed charity program since he began it in 2007, after NBA star Steve Nash inspired him with a locker room chat to focus more on charity and public welfare.

The Yao Foundation, which he established in 2008 after the devastating Sichuan earthquake, has helped build 16 Hope Schools, benefiting 9,000 students, in China's rural areas under the auspices of the China Youth Development Foundation, and has raised 80 million yuan ($13 million) to fund youth sports and education.

Some critics claim Yao is using charity work to increase his public exposure, which heavily contributes to a pro athlete's marketing value.

Yao shrugs off such criticism.

"It helped me gain a spotlight, which is good for my post-basketball career. But if you do something valuable enough and do it from your heart, you know what your purpose is and you don't care about others' opinions," he said.

Joakim Noah, the Chicago Bulls' center who was invited to play a charity game at the MasterCard Center on Monday, supports Yao.

"Everybody has their vision and view and in the US sometimes some of the players got bad names because it's not genuine," said the 28-year-old who also launched his own foundation recently.

"I know Yao is doing things for a genuine reason. Wherever it is in the world, if you're doing it from the heart, I think people feel that."

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