According to reports by Yahoo! Sports and the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Rockets stud center, Yao Ming, has decided to retire after nine years in the league. The first overall pick of the 2002 draft despite never having played ball in the United States before, Yao was an instant hit in the league and besides obvious talent, he brought with him a fan base in China that dwarfed anything the NBA has seen before.
Though many predicted him failing in the NBA, Yao silenced the critics with a solid rookie season that saw him average 13 points and 8 rebounds a game. He increased his output in his second season to 17 points and 9 boards a game and made the playoffs.
The good times, however, weren't meant to last.
Starting in 2005, Yao endured season after season of injury and disappointment. He would only play in one more full season, 2008, before re-injuring himself in the playoffs that year. This injury would end up causing him to miss the entire 2009 season. He returned in the 2010 season only to injure his foot yet again, causing him to miss the majority of the season.
Yao's contract with the Houston Rockets was up after the 2010-11 season and though they wanted him back, he decided that the injuries had taken enough of his basketball life and that retirement was the only option. Yao was forced to issue his retirement through the league due to the inability of teams and players to contact each other during the lockout.
The Rockets have yet to issue a statement to the media at this point but as early as this summer were optimistic that Yao could make a return to the court in a productive capacity.
"We'd all be really happy if Yao comes back to play, and I hope he can," new Rockets coach Kevin McHale said when he was introduced last month. "I think he'll give it his best shot. His body is going to dictate if he can come back and play. That's all going to be laid out in the future.
"But who wouldn't like Yao Ming, a big guy who can really make shots, just a huge force in the middle? That's out of my control. We'll see where that goes."
For his career, Yao averaged 19 points-per-game average with 9.2 rebounds in his seven-plus seasons. He would be voted into the All-Star game every year of eligibility (8) and made the All-NBA second team twice.
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