Friday, July 08, 2011

Yao to retire

Yao Ming, one of the seminal figures in the globalization of the NBA, has decided to retire after nine injury-plagued seasons with the Houston Rockets, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Yao played just five games last season, and hasn’t been able to fully recover after having surgery in January to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. The veteran center informed the Rockets, the league office in New York and NBA China of his decision to leave the game within the past 48 hours, sources said.

Yao was set to become a free agent once the league’s lockout ends. He was once poised to become the league’s dominant big man, but lower-body injuries repeatedly sidelined him over the course of his career. He missed at least 25 games in five of the past six seasons.

Yao, who was the top overall pick of the 2002 NBA draft, finishes his career with per-game averages of 19.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots.

Yao had hoped the surgery would allow him to return for the 2011-12 season – and said he’d like to return to the Rockets. But he also conceded that he may have already played his final game.

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SHANGHAI >> A large scroll behind the player who brought China to the NBA and the NBA to China summed up the occasion.

"Ming xie," it said in large Chinese characters that, loosely translated, mean "Yao Ming, thanks, the end."

Yao, with teary eyes at times and dressed in an equally somber black suit, closed the book Wednesday on his eight-year career with the Houston Rockets, conceding that injuries finally got the best of him.

"My past six months were an agonizing wait. I had been thinking (about my future) over and over," the 30-year-old Yao said in comments translated into English. "Today I am announcing a personal decision: ending my career as a basketball player and officially retire. But one door is closing and another one is opening."

Yao said he would return to work with his former Chinese team, the Shanghai Sharks, with the possibility of becoming general manager. He already owns the club and wants to contribute more.

"My playing career started with the club. I hope I can do something for it," Yao said.

Yao's wife Ye Li and their 14-month-old daughter, Yao Qinlei, and Yao's parents, Yao Zhiyuan and Fang Fengdi, were in the room. Qinlei was dressed in a red qipao, a traditional Chinese dress.

He later appeared with his family on the stage to the applause and cheers of the crowd.

"I will be always with you," he said.

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