NBA star dishes on 2008 Olympics and Yao Ming
Updated: 2014-10-15 09:46
By Yan Weijue(chinadaily.com.cn)
Deron Williams is interviewed by China Daily at MasterCard Center in Beijing, Oct 14, 2014. Photo by Wang Yuxi/chinadaily.com.cn
Other players preparing for the second leg of the NBA Global Games in Beijing on Wednesday may not have the China connection that Deron Williams does, and he said he's excited to revisit the country and connect with fans.
"It is great to be back in Beijing. It is my first time back since the Olympics [in 2008]. I had a great time before. I had great time this time as well. The fans have been great. People and China have been great. We've enjoyed this trip a lot," said the 30-year-old Brooklyn Nets point guard.
Kings, Nets play in Shanghai
Williams' enthusiasm was in place over the weekend as Nets and the Sacramento Kings descended on Shanghai for a Sunday showdown that was attended by a raucous crowd of around 18,000 fans. On hand at the event were NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal, Daryl Dawkins and China's own Yao Ming, formerly of the Houston Rockets.
Williams, a former NBA All Star, said he was shocked to see how profoundly the Chinese people understand the game.
"China's fans are really knowledgeable of basketball. That is kind of evidenced by them cheering for hustle plays. Those things are definitely exciting to them because they know the game of basketball," said Williams after the game in which Nets edged the Kings 97-95.
Williams won a gold medal with Team USA at the Beijing Olympics, an achievement he placed as the proudest moment of his career. Chinese fans might have a different memory: his failed in-your-face dunk over Yao in the opening game against China.
"It was a foul!” Williams joked. "It should have been a foul. They didn't call it though.”
The rivalry between Williams and Yao dated to a year earlier, when Williams' team the Utah Jazz eliminated Yao's Rockets in seven games in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
But Williams said he had much respect for Yao, who announced retirement in 2011 due to multiple foot injuries during his career.
"I really enjoyed playing against Yao. We had a tough series against them. We took the series to Game 7 in Houston. I am really sad to see his career cut short because of the injuries. He is so talented," he said.
"A great big man and a great person as well."