Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets’ 7-foot-6 center from China, has decided to retire after nine NBA seasons, Yahoo! Sports has reported, citing league sources.
Yao, the 30-year-old, eight-time NBA All-Star, played in only five games since the 2008-09 season due to an assortment of injuries, the latest being a stress fracture in left foot for which he underwent surgery earlier this January.
Ming first rose to prominence playing for the Shanghai Sharks as a teenager before starring on the Chinese national team. After negotiating with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) for a contract release, the Rockets made him the No. 1 overall selection in the 2002 NBA draft.
Over the course of his injury-plagued NBA career, Yao averaged 19 points, 9 boards, and nearly two blocked shots per contest – numbers that landed him on the All-NBA team five times.
Despite his phenomenal God-given abilities, it was injuries that kept Yao from ever reaching his full potential – and simultaneously prevented the Rockets from reaching the ultimate prize – an NBA Championship.
“If he was never injured, he would have been one of the greatest centers ever,” said Rafer Alston, a point guard for the Rockets from 2005-09. “You can’t guard him. You had to foul him. He’s 7-6, so he has a height advantage. He had the jump hook over the shoulder. If he was healthy we would have gone far.”
Shaquille O’Neal said it best a recent online video post congratulating Yao:
“We’re going to miss you, bro.”