Trailblazer Yao Ming formally quits game
Basketball star Yao Ming announced his retirement yesterday after a trail-blazing career that made him China’s best-known athlete and helped spur the game’s global growth.
The towering 2.29m (7ft 6in) star made the announcement, which had been widely expected, during a press conference in his home city of Shanghai after his last two seasons with the Houston Rockets were dogged by injuries.
Yao, 30, said he had “waited and hoped that I could return” from a broken foot last year.
“It was a frustrating period and many thoughts crossed my mind. Today I would like to announce my personal decision to formally retire as a basketball player,” he said.
Yao added he planned to focus on his role as owner of the Shanghai Sharks, the team where he started his professional career and which he bought in 2009.
The NBA All-Star, who has used his fame to confront Chinese taboos ranging from the treatment of people with HIV to boycotting shark fin soup, said he would also promote philanthropy in China.
In a choreographed news conference, Yao stayed composed as he stood at a custom-made oversized podium and recalled receiving his first ball at age four and donning his father’s old number at 16 for the Shanghai Sharks.
Yao then joined the Rockets as the first pick in the 2002 NBA draft amid scepticism about whether the signature product of China’s massive state sports system would ever earn the affection of the league’s fans.
But he won over Americans and became an adored national icon in China through his strong play and his grace and poise. He was not China’s first player in the NBA, but he was certainly the best-known.