SHANGHAI (AP) ― Yao Ming has made it official Wednesday, telling a packed news conference in his hometown that a series of foot and leg injuries have forced him to retire from basketball.
“I will formally end my career,” said Yao, the 7-foot-6 center who became a household name in China before starting his NBA career with the Houston Rockets as the top draft pick in 2002.
Yao played eight seasons in the NBA, but missed 250 regular-season games over the past six years.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey attended Yao’s farewell conference Wednesday, and NBA commissioner David Stern sent a message via video link. Morey had to get permission from the NBA to be attend because the lockout prohibits contact with players.
“Yao Ming has been a transformational player and a testament to the globalization of our game,” Stern said in a statement. “His dominant play and endearing demeanor along with his extensive humanitarian efforts have made him an international fan favorite and provided an extraordinary bridge between basketball fans in the United States and China.”
Yao said he will return to work with his former Chinese team, the Shanghai Sharks, with the possibility of becoming general manager. He plans to continue his philanthropic work with his Yao Foundation.
Yao entered the conference room at a five-star hotel dressed in a dark suit, after the master of ceremonies led a countdown to his arrival.