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Basketball star Yao Ming gets tipsy at dinner celebrating wedding

The 2.26-meter (7-foot-6-inch) center tied the knot Monday with longtime girlfriend Ye Li, a 1.9-meter (6-foot-2-inch) player on the Chinese women's basketball team, in Yao's hometown of Shanghai. Only close friends and relatives attended.

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

The dinner was a lighthearted, casual affair - and the guests emptied six bottles of Mao Tai, a fiery Chinese spirit usually downed in shots from small teacups.

"I don't think (Yao) was drunk but he was pretty close. He went back to his room and fell asleep," Zhang said in a telephone interview. "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 rarely drinks, almost never. Last night he drank quite a bit."

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. Yao and Ye took a took a shot with their arms intertwined, and were asked to kiss in front of the guests.

Yao also picked up Ye in his arms, 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 during the 10-course meal.

"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.

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

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.

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