There's not many men Perth Wildcats legend Andrew Vlahov looks up to but he makes an exception with Yao Ming.
Yao, a superstar basketballer until injuries called a premature halt to his US basketball career, is one of the best-known athletes in China. But it's not Yao's 229cm height or prowess but how the 32-year-old uses his position that impresses Vlahov.
After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake which made millions homeless, Yao donated millions of dollars to relief work and established a foundation to build schools.
"He's just told me it's built 14 schools to help 6000 kids already," Vlahov said yesterday. "He's such a great guy - mature beyond his years. We share a passion for youth and for developing the friendship between China and WA further."
Yao has returned to WA for the second consecutive year to bring the basketball team he owns, the Shanghai Sharks, to the Cable Beach Invitational, which starts tomorrow in Broome.
Does he miss playing?
"Sometimes," he replied, "but there's a lot of life in front of me.
"Shanghai life has a very fast pace. Broome makes you feel comfortable and relaxed."