News / Asia

Chinese Basketball Superstar Yao Ming Retires

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (L) drives against Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard during an NBA game in Orlando, Florida, Jan. 4, 2008.
Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (L) drives against Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard during an NBA game in Orlando, Florida, Jan. 4, 2008.

Multimedia

William Ide

China's towering basketball star Yao Ming has announced his decision to retire from the National Basketball Association after a series of injuries made it impossible for him to continue to compete. Yao Ming says he's not leaving basketball, however, and will continue to work for his former Chinese team, the Shanghai Sharks as well as with his charity group the Yao Foundation

At 2.3 meters, Yao Ming's height was one of his biggest assets. It helped him rise through China's national sports system to the NBA. But his massive stature was also the cause of the wear and tear on his leg and ankle that forced him to retire.

Yao Ming's career in photos

Plagued by injuries

Yao Ming spent his entire eight-year NBA career playing for the Houston Rockets, who made him their top draft pick in 2002. Injuries forced him to miss hundreds of games during that period. During his last season, he played only five games after suffering a stress fracture in his left foot for the third time.

Speaking at a farewell news conference on Wednesday that was broadcast live on Chinese national television, Yao said the past six months have been agonizing as he thought through his decision.


"Today I have retired, but as one door closes, another door gradually opens and a brand new life is waiting for me outside that door," Yao said. "Although I have retired from the court, I will never leave basketball. The Shanghai Oriental Sharks Basketball Club will be the extension of my basketball career. I am running the club with the knowledge that I have learned over the years.”

NBA All-Star

Despite his injuries, Yao Ming averaged 19 points and nine rebounds, leading the Rockets to four post-season playoff appearances. He made the NBA's All-Star team eight times.

In a video message played at the press conference, NBA Commissioner David Stern called Yao Ming a "transformational player", adding that he was a testament to the globalization of the game of basketball.

Yao Ming's success not only made him an international superstar, but helped expand the NBA's fan base into China and other parts of Asia.

Brook Larmer, author of Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese Sports Empire, American Big Business and the Making of an NBA Superstar says the Chinese basketball star was not only a bridge for sports between the U.S. and China but also for business and diplomacy.

“It's a slightly bittersweet end to really an amazing journey and I think we have to remember how unusual this was when it happened [when Yao Ming made it into the NBA]", said Larmer. "Yao Ming was born right at the beginning of China's great expansion in 1980. Really his rise parallels China own rise in the world and certainly from the beginning he was seen as more than just a basketball player.”

Sharing the love

Outpourings of support for Yao Ming came quickly online and at his farewell press conference.

In one posting on the social media site Weibo, a fan of Yao Ming said the player was always an influence in his life and childhood. Another remarked that Yao carried with him the pride of the Chinese people and remarked that he would be a hero even in retirement.

In comments earlier this week, NBA star Kobe Bryant praised Yao for inspiring young Chinese basketball players.

"In terms of opening up doors or for Chinese basketball players to come to the NBA or for the youth here in China to believe that it's possible to achieve the dream of being an NBA player - all that started from Yao," said Bryant.

Trailblazer

Larmer says Chinese athletes such as Yao Ming and tennis star Li Na, who recently became the first Chinese tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament, have managed to be trail blazers who broke free from the rigid mold of China's national sports system. But that does not mean that others will follow in their footsteps.

“I don't think in basketball, however, that there will be many other Yao Ming's," Larmer said. "I think he is unique and probably the last, the one and only player of his sort that will ever come out of China.”

China’s state-managed sports system still focuses on recruiting exceptionally tall children to put through years of strictly regimented training. Despite the immense interest in basketball in China, Larmer says that until the state system changes, it is unlikely that other players will be able to replicate Yao Ming's success in the NBA.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs