Chairman Yao: former Houston Rockets star gets top basketball post in China
China’s most successful player tasked with making national team as triumphant
Yao Ming, a former star player with the Houston Rockets in the NBA, has been appointed the chairman of a Chinese government-backed body that runs the country’s professional basketball league and oversees the sport in China.
The appointment was made at the national congress of the Chinese Basketball Association on Thursday.
Chinese media reported in January that the popular, 2.29-metre tall basketball star was Beijing’s choice to develop the game in China.
Yao, 36, is expected to take up the role next month, the government-run news website Chinanews.com reported.
The appointment of Yao brings hopes that the former professional player with rich experience in the US professional league could boost public interest in the sport and push changes in the way it is run.
Basketball adopted a Soviet-style system of management in China in the early years of its development, chasing gold medals at all costs. That contrasts with the commercial model for the sport’s development in the United States.
Yao’s tasks will include developing the national team and improving China’s performance at major games such as the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Yao is one of a number of Chinese athletes to take government-appointed positions.
Deng Yaping, a table tennis player who won four Olympic medals in the 1990s, later became a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Organising Committee.
She also later worked as an executive at the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s governing Communist Party.
Yao is China’s most successful basketball player.
He was selected to start for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game eight times and named to the All-NBA Team five times.
He also led China’s men’s national team to eighth place at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Yao was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame last year.
After he retired in 2011, Yao bought the Shanghai Sharks basketball team. He played for them from 1997 to 2002 before he was admitted to the NBA in the US.
He founded a company last year in the hope of getting the Chinese Basketball Association to allow teams greater autonomy in the running of the league, but his reform proposal was rejected by the governing body.
He is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, the country’s main political advisory body.
In an interview with the People’s Daily after the appointment was announced, Yao said he would continue to push forward reform of the basketball league system.
Comparing the reform to making a cake, Yao said, “The first need is to make the cake big, rather than to redistribute the cake, and during this process we need to unite professionals from different areas, especially those professionals within the system, so they can focus on their wisdom and experience.”
Yao also suggested inviting league players to join the national team rather than simply naming them to the team, which he said could better respect players’ benefits. Under the current system, league players have to give up their financial benefits and training time in the league once called to join the national team, otherwise they face high fines from local sports bureaus.