NBA fans upset over Yao's retirement | other | Hindustan Times
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NBA fans upset over Yao's retirement

The expected retirement of Chinese basketball star Yao Ming risks diminishing the NBA's once-burgeoning popularity in the country, with many local fans saying they would no longer watch NBA games.

other Updated: Jul 11, 2011 23:19 IST

The expected retirement of Chinese basketball star Yao Ming risks diminishing the NBA's once-burgeoning popularity in the country, with many local fans saying they would no longer watch NBA games.

Yao's expected retirement comes at an already difficult time for the NBA, with the 2011-12 season in jeopardy due to a dispute between teams and the players' union.

"What's the point of watching NBA now?" asked an online user called Lubingxia on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like site. An online poll on Weibo by Monday lunchtime showed that 57 percent of respondents would stop watching the NBA after Yao's retirement.

The 7-foot-6 center is expected to announce at a news conference scheduled for July 20 that he is retiring from the NBA after nine seasons. He boosted the popularity of the basketball league in China and throughout Asia, spiking merchandise sales and TV ratings for games after the Houston Rockets made him the top overall pick in the 2002 draft. But Yao, who turns 31 in September, has been plagued by leg and foot injuries, missing 250 regular-season games over the past six seasons.

"It's probably going to be a while until we see another Yao Ming," said Ren Bo, a 25-year-old sports trainer.

The news has upset fans in China, where he has been praised as a role model for the past decade, and strengthened that image by carrying his country's flag during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"It is Yao Ming who makes the kids in China like basketball and it's also Yao Ming who makes the kids know how a real professional basketball player should be," said Xu Jicheng, a longtime basketball commentator.