An exhibition match organized by basketball legend Yao Ming as part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover was finally staged on Sunday night with a crowd of 7,600 fans filling 70 percent of the seats at the Hong Kong Coliseum, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Yao had reportedly pledged to hand-pick stars from North America’s National Basketball Association and the Chinese Basketball Asociation for the spectacle, but the team roster was a letdown, despite the HK$10 million sponsorship given for the event by the Hong Kong government, Apple Daily said.
Local basketball fans were disappointed that the Nike team were only led by the likes of JR Smith and Vince Carter, without any more big names.
At the end of June, the organizers, including the Home Affairs Bureau and the Yao Foundation Charity, said San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder would send players to Hong Kong.
As it turned out, no players from the three teams were on the list. The organizers announced last Friday that all paid tickets would be refunded.
The Customs and Excise Department received 29 complaints in relation to the match, while many netizens said they would not have attended if not for the free tickets.
Others said the playful attitude and below-par performance displayed by the Nike team were an insult to the audience.
A netizen called Tom said he had bought tickets worth HK$680 with his friends wanting to watch Spurs players in action, but they decided to seek a refund as the lineup of players was simply “not worth it”.
The Nike team led at 55 to 50 after the third quarter. With the score tied at 81 with a little more than 40 seconds to go, the CBA’s Sun Minghui hit a three-pointer.
Nike responded with a quick two, but the CBA team scored again and walked away with a 86 to 83 win.
Yao Ming said during a post-match interview that it was regretful that some fans were disappointed and admitted that he did worry about a low turnout.
Legislator Roy Kwong Chun-yu said the Home Affairs Bureau is responsible for monitoring how public money is used.
Kwong said the HK$10 million could have better spent, adding that the match became a laughing stock among the fans.
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