Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 top overall pick by Houston in the 2002 draft and one of the pivotal figures in the globalization of the NBA, has decided to retire, two sources told SI.com.
News of Yao's retirement was first reported by
The 30-year-old center had his career derailed over the last two years due to an injury in his left foot and ankle. He missed the entire 2009-10 season recovering from surgery to repair a broken bone in the foot and played just five games last season after suffering a stress fracture in his ankle.
Over nearly a decade, Yao's presence helped facilitate the NBA's popularity in Asia. He was voted in as an All-Star starter eight times, largely due to an enormous Internet vote from China. His 2007 matchup with countryman Yi Jianlian was broadcast over 19 networks and seen in more than 200 million homes in China.
Yao retires with career averages of 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds.