Yao Ming Biography

Yao Ming born on September 12, 1980, in Shanghai, China is a retired professional basketball player who spent his entire NBA career with the Houston Rockets. At 7-feet, 6-inches tall, he was the third-tallest player in NBA history, behind only Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan.

Early Years

Both of Yao Ming's parents were former professional basketball players in China, and he inherited their height and then some. By the time he was 13 years old, he was playing with the junior team of the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. At the age of 17, he joined the senior team, and four years later, in the 2001-02 season, he led the team to their first-ever CBA title, averaging 32.4 points per game, 19.0 rebounds per game and 4.8 blocks per game during the regular season.

NBA Career

Yao's initial exposure to the players of the NBA came during the 200 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Although China lost to the United States, 119-72, and Yao fouled out early in the second half, the "Great Wall" of Yao and fellow seven-footers Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer had certainly arrived on the radar of American scouts.

Yao decided to enter the NBA Draft in 2002, and after negotiations with the CBA, it was agreed that they would allow Yao to play in the United States, so long as the Houston Rockets selected him with the No. 1 overall pick and that Yao agreed to continue to play for the Chinese National Team.

Houston Rockets (2002-Pres.)

In Yao's rookie season, he started 72 games, averaging 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds for the season. His adjustment to the rigors of playing in the NBA surprised many critics, including Charles Barkley, who had expressed doubts that Ming would ever score more than 19 points in a game. Ming was a unanimous NBA All-Rookie First Team Selection and after being named Western Conference Rookie of the Month in both December and February, finished second overall to Amare Stoudamire for NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

In 2003-04, Yao was one of only six players to lead his team in points, rebounds and blocks. He ranked seventh in the league in field-goal percentage and had 33 double-doubles.

The following season, he continued to establish himself as an NBA force. He was one of only three players in the league to average 18 points and two blocks per game. Yao was also fast becoming an international fan favorite, as he broke Michael Jordan's record for votes received, scoring 11 points and gathering eight rebounds in the 2005 NBA All-Star Game.

In 2005-06, Yao missed 21 games after surgery to clean out an infection in his left big toe. Although he still managed to have a career-high ten 30-point performances and once again led all players in All-Star voting, his season ended early. On April 10, he left a game against Utah after breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot.

In 2006-07, the string of bad breaks continued for Yao. On December 23, 2006, in the midst of what many observers felt was going to be an MVP season, Yao broke his right knee trying to block a shot and subsequently missed 34 games. Although the Rockets did manage to make the playoffs, and Yao scored 29 points in Game 7 of the first-round matchup against the Utah Jazz  including 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Rockets lost the series 4-3.

The 2007-08 started off strong again for Yao, once again voted to start at center for the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. His popularity continued to grow, despite all the injury woes of the past, and a game on November 9, against fellow Chinese NBA player Yi Jianlian and the Milwaukee Bucks drew over 200 million viewers in their native country.

Unfortunately, shortly after the Rockets won their 12th consecutive game in February, 2008, Yao underwent a series of MRI and CT scans after experiencing swelling and pain in his ankle. The diagnosis was a stress fracture in his left foot, and Yao missed the remainder of the regular season, as well as the playoffs, while doctors inserted screws into his foot

Yao recovered enough to be able to participate fully in the Olympic Games held in China. Yao participated in the final torch relay and also was his nation's flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony. Although China lost to the United States by 31 points in the preliminary round of play, the country did advance to the quarterfinals before losing to Lithuania by 26 points.

Bolstered by the experience, Yao returned to the Rockets with a renewed vigor. He played in 77 of the team's 82 regular season games in 2008-09, averaging 19.7 points and 9.9 rebounds. Houston won 53 games and advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers. Although Yao helped lead the Rockets to a Game 1 victory, Yao's playoffs came to an abrupt end after Game 3, when he was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. Further testing, however, revealed yet another fracture in his troublesome left foot. At the time, surgery was not thought to be required, but in July of 2009, it was decided that Yao would in fact go under the knife, and as a result, miss the entire 2009-10 season.

Yao returned for 2010-11 and the Rockets put in a plan to limit him to 24 minutes a game and not play in back-to-back games. However, Yao developed a stress fracture in his left ankle and on Dec. 16, 2010, the team announced he would once again miss the remainder of the season. Despite the injury, he was voted in as a starter for the All-Star Game for the eighth time in nine seasons.

On July 20, 2011, Yao announced he was retiring from the NBA due to his lingering foot injuries. Yao was nominated for consideration for the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor -- thus bypassing the five-year waiting period for consideration as a player -- but he requested that the Hall of Fame delay the nomination.

Off the Court

Yao Ming married Chinese women's basketball player Ye Li in August of 2007 in Shanghai. Ye Li gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Amy, in May of 2010.

Yao continues to give back to his former homeland. Yao's charitable organization, the Yao Ming Foundation, raises money to help benefit victims of an 8.0 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China. He also purchased his former team, the Shanghai Sharks, in July of 2009, in order to save them from bankruptcy.