YAO Ming reminisced about his NBA career and was ecstatic about his upcoming jersey retirement with the Houston Rockets on Sunday (Monday, Manila time) before his old team pounded the current squad he owns, the Shanghai Sharks, in a preseason game.
Rockets team management announced on September 23 that they will honor Yao by hanging his jersey number 11 up in the rafters when Houston host Atlanta on February 2. The soft-spoken Chinese big man, tasked to help the NBA become a global enterprise in China, described the event as something beyond his wildest dreams.
“Jersey retired? It just happened too soon. It’s something I couldn’t have dreamed of,” said Yao during the press conference officially announcing his jersey retirement.
“I appreciate everything Houston did for me, the opportunity to come over here and play,” added the 2002 NBA top draft pick and new Hall of Famer, who joked that the last time he was on the same Toyota Center press room was when he announced his nine year career-ending injury.
Yao is set to become the fifth player to have his number retired by the Rockets, along with Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Former coach and player Rudy Tomjanovich also has his jersey hanging in the rafters.
“I said it before. But so many nights when I walked through that court, or played on that court, I looked up to those jerseys and thought those jerseys are the spirit of the team of Houston,” Yao said.
Those jerseys are honored and those jerseys are motivation… I would be honored to continue,” he added.
For Rockets CEO Thaddeus Brown, Yao deserved to be there among the Houston greats, describing the Chinese superstar as ‘a native Texan and a Houston Rocket for life.’