SHANGHAI - Basketball icon Yao Ming said he thinks his presence in a popular reality TV show could draw more attention to children's all-round development through sports activities.
Entering the entertainment business has become trendy for retired athletes to stay in the public eye, but that's not the case for Yao, despite his participation in the hit reality TV show Where Are We Going, Dad?.
The show, which features trips of fathers and children set audience records in the first season and became a nationwide sensation following word that Yao would participate in the upcoming second season.
In typical low-key style, the former NBA All-Star plays down his role in the show and said he sees it simply as publicity highlighting the importance of physical education in child rearing - a concept that he actively promotes through various charitable initiatives and physical education events since his retirement in 2011.
"I hope to send out a message that sports can teach children many virtues that they couldn't learn in classrooms, and to influence more people to pay attention to children's all-round development," Yao said after a charitable event at Shanghai's Ziluolan Primary School on Thursday.
The event was part of the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season, an annual charitable programme that organises students in underprivileged areas to participate in a two-month basketball training camp where they learn the virtues of teamwork, leadership and socializing.
This year's event, which kicked off in late April, has expanded to 80 primary schools across China and has so far encouraged more than 151,500 students to complete the two-month stretch, during which college volunteers teach basketball skills.
"Our aim is to teach children to take part in sports, not to train basketball talent for professional teams," said Yao, who has been bouncing between his roles as a businessman, basketball club owner and charity promoter since 2011.
Shrugging off the foot injury that led to his retirement, Yao ran up and down the court with students in a mini-exhibition game against another team led by NBA star forward Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Batum joined forces with Yao as an ambassador of NBA Cares, the National Basketball Association's global community outreach initiative that addresses social issues such as education, family development and health. He echoed Yao's sentiment that sports really matter in children's development.
"It's big. When you are young, playing games like basketball and football can give you opportunities to do a lot of things to open your life," said the 25-year-old Frenchman, who entered the NBA in 2008.