Although the future of China's injured NBA all-star Yao Ming remains unclear, the basketball superstar has made headlines again this week - this time for a business interest in his home team of Shanghai.
Houston Rockets center Yao Ming gives a news conference before Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Houston, Texas, May 10, 2009. [Agencies]
According to a media report yesterday, Yao is eying a 20 million yuan ($2.9 million) part ownership of the CBA outfit after the Shanghai Sharks recently encountered financial difficulties following the withdrawal of one of its former sponsors, Xiyang Group.
The coach of Shanghai team said he believed Yao was interested, but said the final contract had not been signed.
"I'm not very clear about the details, because the team didn't join the negotiations, only the Shanghai Media Group (SMG, one of the current owners of the team), Shanghai Sports Bureau and Yao's team," Li Qiuping, coach of the Shanghai basketball team, was quoted as saying by sohu.com.
"The contract has not been signed, so I know nothing about the agreement. After Xiyang Group withdrew its sponsorship, it is difficult for SMG to handle the team by itself. If Yao could take it, it will be very good," Li said.
Founded in 1996, Shanghai Sharks claimed the CBA championships title in 2001-02 season with the help of Yao.
After he left for the NBA, the team failed to stay on top - finished the second to last in the 2008-09 CBA regular season, and Xiyang Group decided to cease its association in January.
SMG have denied Yao's involvement
"I had heard nothing about it until I saw some news from the internet," Zhang Zhengming, general manager of SMG, was quoted by sina.com yesterday.
"At present, there are many parts that intend to purchase the shareholding, and we still have to evaluate their qualities and capabilities," he added.