Houston Rockets center Yao Ming announced today from his hometown of Shanghai, China that he has retired from the NBA. Yao finishes his career ranked second in Rockets history in career blocked shots (920), sixth in total points (9,247) and sixth in total rebounds (4,494). Of the 11 players to don a Rockets jersey for seven or more seasons, of them, only Calvin Murphy, Rudy Tomjanovich, Allen Leavell and Yao spent their entire careers with the Rockets.
“This is a sad day for me as well as the entire Houston Rockets organization,” said Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander. “Yao Ming was a great basketball player, but he’s distinguished himself as an even better person. From the moment he arrived in Houston with unprecedented expectations, he handled himself with poise, dignity, purpose and pride well beyond his years.
As a player, Yao was a superstar in every sense of the word. He was one of the hardest working players I’d ever seen and he never lost the desire to be great. In addition to being the best center of his generation, Yao served as our game’s greatest global ambassador.
We have been honored to call Yao a special member of the Rockets family and we celebrate his contributions to the organization and the Houston community these past nine seasons. He will always be a part of the Rockets and our future.”
After joining Houston in the 2002 NBA Draft as the first number-one overall pick to come from an international basketball league, Yao (7-6, 310, China) established himself as one of the top centers in the NBA, as well as a global phenomenon. Yao’s averages of 19.0 points (tied for eighth in Rockets history), 9.2 rebounds (eighth in Rockets history) and 1.89 blocks (third in Rockets history) in 486 games (476 starts) placed him among the Rockets legendary players. He also compiled 209 career double-doubles and three career 20-point, 20-rebound games. Yao was selected as a starter to eight NBA All-Star Games (2003-2009, 2011), standing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in Rockets annals to be named a starter to eight All-Star Games. He was also the only player in franchise history to be voted in as an All-Star starter over seven consecutive seasons.
A 2005-06 divisional winner for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, Yao’s hard work, dedication and unselfish play defined Houston and made the Rockets a perennial contender in the Western Conference. Over his nine seasons with the Rockets, Yao earned All-NBA Second Team twice (2006-07, 2008-09) and All-NBA Third Team three times (2003-04, 2005-06, 2007-08). He was named Western Conference Player of the Month twice (Nov. 2006, Jan. 2008) and collected Western Conference Player of the Week accolades six times (week ending: 3/7/04, 2/26/06, 4/2/06, 11/12/06, 4/1/07, 11/11/07). Among his lengthy list of accolades, Yao was also voted to The Sporting News All-Star Second Team (2006-07) and as The Sporting News Rookie of the Year by NBA executives (2002-03). Additionally, he was also a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002-03) and was twice honored with Western Conference Rookie of the Month.
With Yao anchoring the center position, Houston’s defense finished in the top-five in points allowed per game five times and ranked among the top-10 defenses in the NBA in each of his first seven seasons. He actually surpassed Moses Malone (758 blocks in 464 games) into second in Rockets history for blocked shots with his third block (759 blocks in 400 games) vs. Sacramento (2/13/08). His presence in the paint was complimented by his amazing efficiency from the free throw line, where he finished fourth in team history in free throws made (2,485), fifth in attempts (2,984) and complied four career streaks of 30-plus straight free throws made.
He created The Yao Ming Foundation in June 2008, and worked tirelessly in the community to better Houston, as well as his native country of China. Yao also played for the Chinese National Team during each of his first six summers after being drafted into the NBA.