Mr Basketball won’t be beaten

Time out: I have always been driven by my faith, respect and friendship with all, says Yeoh.

KUALA LUMPUR: The book lives on, even if men don’t.

And at the age of 79, the indomitable Datuk Yeoh Choo Hock wants to make sure of that.

He is popularly known as Malaysia’s “Mr Basketball” for his immense contributions to the sport in the country and throughout Asia.

Having suffered a serious stroke during a trip back to his hometown in Kangar in 2012, he refused to let things be.

He has still not missed a day in Wisma MABA (Malaysia Amateur Basketball Association) here where he continues to maintain an office as secretary-general emeritus of Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Asia.

Prior to that, the former physical education teacher was the national basketball coach from 1975 to 1989, Maba deputy secretary-general and then as secretary-general for 18 years before being elected vice-president.

With his memory of events spanning over a half century still very much intact, Yeoh set out in 2020 to conceptualise a coffee table book on his involvement in the sport to serve as his memoir.

Dato’ Yeoh Choo Hock: My Life, My Journey was split into several parts, starting with his early life, love affair with basketball, the celebrities he met, lives he touched and his family.

“I wanted it to be a celebration of not just of my love for basketball, but also my family and other important events in my life,” he said.

Last week, Yeoh launched his second book, Dato’ Yeoh Choo Hock – My Inner Spiritual Journey, at his Sai Lotus Centre at Kampung Janda Baik, Bentong, Pahang, where he spends a huge amount of his time reflecting on life.

The hard cover contains more than 160 glossy pages of events and photographs mapped out over 16 chapters tracking his spiritual journey plus an insight into his family life.

Among others, he is credited as being the driving force behind the 12-storey Wisma MABA, which back in those days also provided dormitory facilities to national players from other sports.

Another notable feather in his cap was the “Basketball for Peace” movement he initiated to popularise the sport among the various ethnic communities in the country.

“I have always been driven by my faith, respect and friendship with all.

“We must always have a full, generous regard for the rights and feelings of others,” said Yeoh, who counts many great sportsmen, such as badminton star Datuk Lee Chong Wei and late American basketball legend Kobe Bryant, as among his buddies. The father of two recalled his kinship with former Polish ambassador Marek Paszucha, who was a member of Poland’s basketball team from 1953 to 1960, followed by years of serving the Polish Basketball Federation which he eventually headed in 1991.

“Upon arriving here, the first thing that he did was to look me up.

“I first met him in China in 1984 when he was a referee at a basketball tournament.

“We had a lot of things in common on ways to further develop the sport and also make it our tool of peace and diplomacy.

“When his wife died, I visited her grave in Krakow and we shed tears together,” he recalled.

Although Yeoh invited a small group to his book launch over the weekend, more than a 100 people drove to the scenic area to share in his joy.

“I was very touched and felt really thankful that they came all the way, some from as far as Australia. Many wanted to encourage me on,” he said.

Among those in the crowd was former Thomas Cupper Saw Swee Leong, current Maba secretary-general Tan Kee Hian and author Habib Syed Hussein Al-Attas.

Also present were Yeoh’s wife Datin Hong Eu Thee, daughter Ee Leen and other members of his family including his sister and grandsons.

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