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Yao Ming walks away from NBA, makes retirement official

Jul 20, 2011, 8:21 AM EDT

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Yao Ming — the former No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Rockets who for several years was the best center in the game and who helped globalize the NBA by making it the most popular American sport in China — made his retirement official in a ceremony Wednesday in China.

Ongoing foot problems — his left foot was fractured three times and never healed properly — forced him into this decision. NBA TV broadcast Yao’s retirement ceremony from China back to the United States. He started by speaking in Chinese (the broadcast had a translator).

“”Today I need to make a personal decision as a basketball player. I will stop my basketball career and I will formally retire.”

He then went on to thank a number of people and to thank the game of basketball itself for all it had given him. He then switched to English to give a message to his “friends overseas,” particularly Rockets fans.

“I would like to thank you for giving me a great nine years during my NBA career. Nine years ago I come to Houston as a young, tall, skinny player. The entire city and team changed me into a grown man. Not only a basketball player. And also I had my first daughter over there. I feel like a Houstonian and I will always be with you.”

Yao said that this “would be a comma, not a period” and that he would still be involved in basketball. That starts by working with the Shanghai Sharks, the Chinese team he played with before coming to the NBA.

Someday, don’t be shocked if big men from around the world flock to talk to him as a guru, the way they do now with another former Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon. Yao has the mind to be a great basketball coach. He was a great basketball player, just one whose body betrayed him before we got to see enough of him.

  1. edmazeing1 - Jul 20, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Greg Oden is next!!!

  2. captainwisdom8888 - Jul 20, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    Greg Olden fell and broke his hip yesterday…

  3. zrbk - Jul 20, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    We seldom realize what really made Yao a great man — his commitment to the Chinese national team. Yao played for his nation every summer however exhausting the previous NBA season was. The big man sacrificed his NBA career by playing for China in the Beijing Olympics. He never got to relax and let his feet heal from all the injuries. A more selfish Yao may have became a legendary center with a longer career. What a pity.

    • cosanostra71 - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:35 PM

      well, he did do this, but I don’t think he had much of a choice. See: Wang Zhizhi

  4. Amadeus - Jul 20, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Yao Who? What did he ever win? Most overrated center ever.

    • florida727 - Jul 20, 2011 at 12:10 PM

      Ever hear of RALPH SAMPSON?

  5. philtration - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    More like “limps” away.

    • philtration - Jul 20, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      Lets not get carried away with the over the top love for Yao.
      He could have been a great player but he was not so don’t try to rewrite history.

      Marketing the league to a country that did not care until one of their own made it in the NBA does not make you a Hall of Fame player all of a sudden.
      He was injury prone, missed hundreds of games in Houston and made a lot of money for doing nothing.

      • therookie773 - Jul 20, 2011 at 2:44 PM

        From what I saw on TV, Yao seemed like a pretty cool guy and definitely a great player when he wasn’t injured. I don’t see why it’s such a problem to show him some love as he walked away early from the game. Nobody is rewriting history, everyone including yourself is just stating he would have been great, no more no less. So according to you everyone in the NBA who doesn’t win championships is making a lot of money for doing nothing? not even talking about injuries here.

      • philtration - Jul 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        I never said anything about him not winning a championship so don’t speak for me.
        I am talking about his injuries here. He made a lot of money for not even playing the games.
        Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway “could have” been great too but they were not.

        So he was a nice guy. Then say he was a nice guy but I see too many people acting like Bill Russel is hanging it up or something.

  6. asublimeday - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Class act, loyal to his team. Plenty of guys could learn from the Yao’s, Rose’s, and Durant’s of the league.

  7. urodaddy07 - Jul 20, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    It is a shame. He was a great player and very unassuming guy. It’s the right decision though. I just don’t think his body type was made for the game. The funny thing about NBA is that it appears it’s a league for big men, but the bigger guys usually west down early.

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