Yao Ming mobbed as he begins university studies
Basketball superstar Yao Ming is back in the media spotlight after stepping off the court and back into the classroom.
The former NBA star was mobbed by photographers and students on Monday as he arrived at Shanghai Jiao Tong University to start classes. As a testament to his lasting appeal more than three months after his retirement, images of his arrival were plastered across the city's media yesterday.
'On the first day of class, the teachers went quite easy on me, and didn't set any assignments or homework,' he said at the end of day one, adding that he was facing a steep learning curve, as it had been more than a decade since he was last in a classroom. 'The moment I sat down today I just wanted class to begin,' he said.
Yao, a Shanghai native, had been spotted on the Jiao Tong campus last week, sparking rumours about what he was planning to study. He confirmed on Monday that he had enrolled in an economics-related major in the university's Antai College of Economics and Management, taking classes in history, English, maths and journalism. He was a hit with other students at the university on his first day - receiving a round of applause as he stepped into a lecture theatre.
Videos and photographs in mainland media and posted online showed the 2.3-metre-tall Yao towering over his classmates, squeezing in behind desks and having to bend over to write on a white board - prompting some internet users to joke that, with his enormous frame, Yao would have no trouble cheating in exams.
The former centre for the Houston Rockets formally retired in July due to a long-running series of injuries, which culminated in a stress fracture in his left foot in December. Yao, an eight-time NBA All-Star, had played in just five games for the Rockets in his last two seasons with the club.
Upon announcing his retirement, Yao talked about his commitment to youth causes, and said he hoped to use his ownership of the Shanghai Sharks - the club where he made his debut at the age of 16 - as a platform to promote sport among young people.