Instead of a cultural icon, well-known author or scholar, President Barack Obama sought the advice of … a basketball player as he talked of the importance of strong U.S.-Chinese economic ties.

In a speech opening the Strategic Economic Dialogue between the United States and China, Obama — an avid basketball fan and player — quoted China’s most popular sports star and Houston Rockets center, Yao Ming.

Obama said he and Chinese President Hu Jintao both agreed the two nations needed to hold “sustained dialogue to enhance our shared interests.”

Then he went for the analogy.

“As a new President and also as a basketball fan, I have learned from the words of Yao Ming, who NBA/said, ‘No matter whether you are new or an old team member, you need time to adjust to one another.’”

“Well, through the constructive meetings that we’ve already had, and through this dialogue, I’m confident that we will meet Yao’s standard.”