Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is pondering quitting basketball if he doesn't fully recover from his lingering foot injury next season.
In wide ranging comments to Chinese state media on Monday, Yao sounded far from optimistic about his future and also made a rare criticism of China's national basketball program. "If the foot injury does not heal next season, I might choose to call it quits," Yao said.
Yao missed last season following foot surgery, but is set to return to the Rockets after deciding not to opt out of the final year of his contract. Though he has said his recovery was going well, the Rockets have signed 7 foot veteran Brad Miller to share the work at center.
The 7 foot 6 Yao, who was in his native China for a series of charity events, all but ruled out playing for his country in the 2012 London Olympics.
"The chance (to play in London) is very small. The foot injury will not allow me to play so many games anymore," Yao was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. "Like I said before, I will quit the national team and the sport one day. It's what happens to every athlete."
Without Yao, who remains wildly popular in China, the country's national team has only managed a series of lackluster performances, including an embarrassing home loss to Iran in the final of the Asian Championship last year.
Yao, who turns 30 in September, said the poor showings stemmed from China's focus on preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, while neglecting development teams and the country's professional league.
"We are paying for what we didn't do leading up to 2008. We skipped the development of a reserve team and the CBA league and focused only on the national team and the Olympics. It's like you are killing the goose that lays the golden egg," he said. "I'm 30. As an athlete, I am not the future of China basketball anymore."