Yao imbibes a bit too much during wedding party

Updated: August 10, 2007, 12:19 PM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- Newlywed Yao Ming treated his Chinese teammates to a celebratory dinner at a posh hotel, where guests feasted on a 10-course meal -- and the 7-foot-6 center had a little too much to drink.

The Houston Rockets center "rarely drinks," but this time he marked the occasion and "drank quite a bit," Yao spokesman Erik Zhang said.

"I don't think [Yao] was drunk but he was pretty close. He went back to his room and fell asleep," Zhang said by telephone. "But he felt this was a celebration. And also his teammates, the people who care about him, they're not going to let him get away with not drinking. And he knows that."

Yao tied the knot Monday with longtime girlfriend Ye Li, a 6-2 player on the Chinese women's basketball team, in Yao's hometown of Shanghai. Only close friends and relatives attended.

Yao and Ye held a dinner Thursday night at Beijing's Grand Hyatt hotel with their teammates, Zhang said. China Basketball Association officials were among the 70 guests.

No teammates or coaches from the Rockets were there, Zhang added. Yao plans to host a dinner when he returns to Texas.

Teammate Liu Wei said in a posting on his blog that the dinner included traditional wedding banquet games designed to embarrass the bride and groom.

Guests emptied six bottles of Mao Tai, a fiery Chinese spirit usually downed in shots from small teacups. Yao and Ye took a shot with their arms intertwined, and were asked to kiss in front of the guests.

Yao also picked up Ye, and the bride had to light a cigarette for her tallest teammate, who was standing on a chair above the towering couple.

Guests dined on grouper, abalone, roast pork and ginseng chicken soup.

"I can tell you there was definitely no shark's fin," Zhang said, referring to the traditional banquet delicacy that Yao pledged to give up after becoming spokesman for environmental groups that oppose killing sharks for their fins.

Yao and Ye left the hotel Friday with two luggage carts full of presents. Among them was a crystal warrior figurine from Wang Zhizhi, the first Chinese in the NBA and now a player in China's professional league and on the national team.

"I hope he will be fierce like a warrior during next year's Beijing Olympics," Wang told the Beijing Morning Post.

Yao and his wife returned to Shanghai on Friday and will leave in the next couple of days to honeymoon in Europe.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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