Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China's First NBA Starter and Champion Mengke Bateer Retires Due to Diabetes

Mengke Bateer

(Photo : Getty Images/Darren McNamara)

Mengke Bateer, the first Chinese player to start in an NBA game and to win a title, has retired due to health issues, mainly diabetes.

He marked his retirement with a ceremony at the MasterCard Center, which was the venue of the basketball tournament of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, CNTV reported.

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The ceremony opened with Bateer's son playing hoops while wearing their native Inner Mongolian traditional clothing.  

Bateer, along Wang Zhizhi and Yao Ming, forms China's "Walking Great Wall".

Wang attended the ceremony, while Yao was shown on a video message offering his best wishes to Bateer.

Bateer's teammates from the national team  Du Feng, Zhu Fangyu and Wang Shipeng also showed up.

There was also a game held to say farewell to bateer, with former  Houston Rocket  superstar Hakeen Olajuwon taking part.

The ceremony's climax was the lifting of Bateer's No. 9 jersey to the Wukesong rafters.

Bateer, who is from Inner Mongolia, joined the NBA's Denver Nuggets in 2002 after a five-year stint with the Beijing Ducks. 

It was also wth the Nuggets that Bateer became the as the first Chinese player to start in an NBA game, according to the website Complex. In that game, Bateer scored four points on a 28 percent shooting.

Because of lack of big men on the Nuggets lineup, especially after Raef Lafrentz was traded, Bateer  ended up starting 10 games.

 He later joined the title-winning San Antonio Spurs of 2003 and gained the distinction of becoming the first Chinese player to have won an NBA championship. The other was Sun Yue, who was part of the 2009 Los Angeles Lakers.

Bateer last played in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors in the 2003-2004 season before rejoining the Ducks in the CBA. He then saw action for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers from 2007 to 2013 and Sichuan Blue Whales in 2013 before returning to the Ducks 2013 where he played until his retirement.

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