Yao retirement deals blow to league’s China efforts
TORONTO – Yao Ming provided the National Basketball Association (NBA) with slam dunk marketing ventures in China and his retirement on Wednesday will severely reduce interest for the game in Asia, according to experts.
Chinese interest in the U.S.-based league soared when the Houston Rockets made the towering Shanghai-born center the top pick in the 2002 draft, but without an heir apparent to his throne the NBA could see an exodus of loyal fans in China.
“This was lightning in a bottle and the NBA and the sport of basketball are better off for it,” Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based sports consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd, told Reuters.
“But they are going to have major challenges moving the needle in China in a meaningful manner without Yao.”
China is the NBA’s largest market outside of the United States and keeping the interest of 30 million viewers who tuned in weekly during the season will be a daunting task as many fans have already been tuning out with Yao on the sidelines.
Yao missed the entire 2009-10 NBA season after suffering a fractured bone in his left foot and the seven-foot, six-inch (2.3-meter) center has not played since injuring his ankle during his fifth game of the 2010-11 season.
He finally decided to retire after an eight-season career where he was an eight-times All Star and averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in 486 career NBA games.