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Thursday, February 23, 2017, 17:27

Yao Ming elected as president of Chinese Basketball Association

By Agencies
Yao Ming elected as president of Chinese Basketball Association
Yao Ming is elected as the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association during the association's national congress on Feb 23, 2017.  (Photo by Wei Xiaohao/China Daily)

BEIJING — Yao Ming has moved into management in a bid to hasten China's basketball development.

The Chinese Basketball Association voted unanimously to appoint former Houston Rockets star as its president on Thursday, in a step toward reform for an organization which has in past been led by government bureaucrats.

Yao Ming is not only a brilliant player, but intelligent with his independent ideas

Yang Ming, a Chinese sports commentator

Yao Ming, the newly elected president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), said on Thursday that Chinese basketball reform needs to focus on priorities.

He also announced that he plans to sell his shares of the Shanghai Sharks in the CBA before next season.

The CBA's social media account quoted the Hall of Famer as saying he hoped to make improvements to the domestic league's draft system and push more Chinese players into the international arena.

In comments after the vote, Yao said he would introduce scientific training methods to Chinese clubs, improve the tactical education of players and forge exchanges with leagues in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

"Our next move will be to borrow from international advanced experience, to thoroughly study China's actual conditions and carve ourselves a path of innovation," Yao said. Reforms would cover all aspects of the game in China, from the national team to youth programs, he said.

In his first press conference as CBA president, the 37-year-old Chinese basketball legend was asked what is the biggest problem facing Chinese basketball.

"The question reminds me of the year 2004, when our first foreign coach of national team Delmer Harris asked me the same question, my answer then was 'there's no biggest problem, because there are problems everywhere,'" said Yao.

Yao Ming elected as president of Chinese Basketball Association
File photo shows former Chinese national team player Yao Ming during a game between China and Angola at the Stankovic Continental Cup 2008 in Hangzhou on July 19, 2008. (Photo/VCG)

"This is what happens in reforms but, every reform has its priority. What we need to do is to find the priority after research, and solve the problem and associated ones to create a virtuous cycle," Yao added.

Yao also addressed the potential for conflicts of interest due to the fact that he's invested in the Shanghai Sharks, the team he began to play for as a teenager, not to mention his status as vice president of the newly-established CBA company that aims to promote the sport.

"I have a simple role in Chinese basketball now, the CBA president," Yao said. "From today I will not deal with issues of the Shanghai Club. Before the next CBA season, I'll find a new, enthusiastic investor for the club."

As the first-pick of 2002 NBA Draft, Yao spent 9 years overseas as a player for the Houston Rockets. Today's press conference ended with a question about whether his American green card will influence his future work.

"I have no green card," Yao replied with a smile on his face.

Yao Ming elected as president of Chinese Basketball Association
File photo shows former Houston Rockets player Yao Ming on court during Game 2 vs Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA Playeroffs on April 21, 2009. (Photo/VCG)

Yao, 36, was one of the first Chinese athletes to become an international household name when the Houston Rockets drafted him with the first pick in 2002. The 2.29-meter (7-foot-6) center played for eight seasons in the NBA before retiring in 2011, citing chronic injuries.

A two-time Olympian, the Shanghai-born Yao was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2009, he purchased the Shanghai Sharks, his former CBA team.

Over the past decade NBA stars such as Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, J.R. Smith and Gilbert Arenas have spent one or more seasons playing in the CBA as the league grew in prominence. But Chinese sports fans say the league could be made stronger still and their country's basketball talent pipeline remains underwhelming despite the sport's grassroots popularity.

Yang Ming, a Chinese sports commentator, praised the appointment of Yao over a government official, saying that Yao had broad experience as a player in the NBA and a CBA club owner.

"For many years we haven't seen any admirable or acceptable reform measures introduced by the CBA," Yang said. "Yao Ming is not only a brilliant player, but intelligent with his independent ideas."

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