Chinese laud Yao

Updated: 2011-07-10 07:54

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Fans pay respect to landmark figure who looks set to retire

BEIJING - Although iconic center Yao Ming's possible retirement is yet to be officially announced, Chinese hoops celebrities and fans have already begun to recall the giant's outstanding career - along with some of his fellow NBA players.

Plagued by a series of foot injuries, the Houston Rockets' all-star center appeared on court only five times over the past two seasons and was reported by multiple sources to have retired from the game on Saturday.

Despite that, Yao's management team announced on Saturday it won't say anything about his future until a press conference on July 20; when the 2.26m giant is expected to bid farewell to the sport.

China's renowned basketball TV commentator, Zhang Weiping, who has decades of experience reporting and broadcasting NBA events in China, is sorry that Yao may be forced into retirement and has wished him all the best in his future endeavors.

"He is a landmark figure in Chinese basketball history, with a huge impact both on and off the court. Shouldering the whole country's expectations, he has done well battling that pressure and continuous injuries.

"It's a pity that he couldn't continue, but it's also a kind of relief for him. I hope everything goes well for him in the future," Zhang said during a TV interview on Saturday.

As one of the most recognizable sportspeople worldwide, Yao has single-handedly expanded the NBA's reach throughout Asia after debuting in the NBA in 2002.

Meanwhile, Chinese team head coach Bob Donewald said he won't remove Yao's from his national plans until seeing his statement.

"I've heard the news, but I didn't get any confirmation from Yao or his agent. I'll wait and see," Donewald said.

"He is a great player and a great person. Even if he quits the NBA, I hope he won't quit the national team. I'll keep looking forward to his return until he tells me he won't. Anyway, I hope he keeps healthy," Donewald told domestic website Sina.com.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) said it had not been informed about Yao's possible retirement and was "surfing the Internet" for more information, said Bai Xilin, director of the CBA's competition department.

NBA players also shared their comments online.

"You are one of the greatest players ever to come out of China, one of the greatest players period. I'm going to miss you bro. Enjoy retirement. Let's go on vacation, bro me and you," NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal, who himself retired last month, said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

Yao's former Rockets teammate Tracy McGrady also paid tribute on Twitter, saying: "Join me with standing ovation for Yao Ming. I wish Yao continued success in all his ventures in life. Yao was absolutely instrumental in the growth and popularity of our game abroad."

China Daily

(China Daily 07/10/2011 page7)