Yao's playing days over
Yao Ming, the Chinese All-Star centre with the Houston Rockets team in the American National Basketball Association, has confirmed weeks of rumours by officially retiring from the sport because of recurring injury problems.
The 2.29-metre tall player, who had played in the US for the past nine years, made the announcement in his hometown, Shanghai, yesterday.
'Today is an important day for me and has a special meaning for both my basketball career and my future,' Yao, 30, said. 'I have to leave the court because I suffered a stress fracture in my left foot for the third time at the end of last year.'
His family and friends had helped him to make the difficult decision to retire, he said.
He missed the entire 2009-10 season because of injury and played in only five games - for a total of 44 minutes - last season.
He said that when he first played professional basketball, his parents had warned him: 'One day it will end.' Although that day had arrived faster than he had expected - because of injury - he had still enjoyed playing the sport to the best of his abilities for 18 years.
'I hope that this is just a comma, not a full stop,' he said.
Yao said he had loved playing the sport since the age of four, when he was given his first basketball, but would not turn his back on the sport.
He plans to manage the Shanghai Sharks basketball team, and will work to develop basketball on the mainland.
NBA commissioner, David Stern, said: 'Yao Ming has been a transformational player for our league and a source of enormous pride to the people of China and people of Chinese descent in the United States.'