By JONATHAN FEIGEN
A sports career unlike any other is over.
Yao Ming, who became the face of China’s outreach to the West and the NBA’s growing popularity around the globe, has informed the Rockets and NBA he would retire, several individuals told of the decision confirmed on Friday.
Yao has played in just five games the past two season and has had five consecutive seasons ended or interrupted by bone injuries, most recently a stress fracture in his left leg suffered Nov. 10 in Washington. Yahoo.com reported that Yao officially informed the NBA of his decision in the past 48 hours.
An eight-time All Star, he averaged 19.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in his career. He had said in March and again in May that he had chosen to continue his rehabilitation to attempt a comeback. A free agent, he said he wanted to play for the Rockets. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Leslie Alexander said they wanted Yao back.
“I’ll try continuing. I’ll try continuing,” Yao said. “A lot will depend on this foot.”
Asked if he believes he will play again, Yao said, “That’s the direction.”
Yao could not, however, play again with any confidence that he would avoid injuries.
“When you look at the course of Yao’s career, stress fractures have been a part of his foot,” Rockets team physician Walter Lowe said in December. “To say he’s not at a risk to continue to have stress fractures would be crazy. He is at a continued risk.”
Yao had said last off season in China that if he could not stay healthy that he would have to retire.
Limited to no more than 24 minutes per game, he played in just five games before the injury in Washington. Initially thought to be a relatively sprained ankle, a stress fracture was later found, ending Yao’s season and career.
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