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.