Yao “The Walking Great Wall” Ming, Tallest Professional NBA Player at 7 ft 6 in, Author, Athelete

17 04 2009

Yao Ming is the world’s most celebrated Asian athlete and is from the most populous nation in the world, China.

Playing center for the Houston Rockets, Yao has recently overtaken the mantel of top NBA center over  Shaq and has shattered many stereotypes and silenced numerous critics along the way.

He has led Forbes’ Chinese celebrities list in income and popularity for six straight years, earning 51 million U.S. dollars (357 million yuan) in 2008.

A major part of his income comes from his sponsorship deals, as he is under contract with several major companies to endorse their products.

He was signed by Nike until the end of his rookie season; when they decided not to renew his contract, he signed with Reebok. He also had a deal with Pepsi, and he successfully sued Coca-Cola in 2003 when they used his image on their bottles while promoting the national team.


Before Yao’s first meeting with Shaquille O’Neal on January 17, 2003, O’Neal said,

“Tell Yao Ming, Ching chong-yang-wah-ah-soh”, prompting accusations of racism.

 O’Neal denied that his comments were racist, and said he was only joking. Yao, the bigger person,  also said he believed O’Neal was joking, but the comments led to increased media coverage in the buildup to the nationally televised game.

In the game, Yao scored six points and blocked O’Neal twice in the opening minutes, and made a game-sealing dunk with 10 seconds left in overtime. Yao finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds; O’Neal scored 31 points and 13 rebounds. Yao’s final averages in 55 games were 22.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks a game. 




Yao is married to Ye Li, a women’s basketball player for China, whom he met when he was 17. Ye was not fond of Yao at first, but finally accepted him after he gave her the team pins he had collected during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Their relationship was first made public when they appeared together during the 2004 Olympics closing ceremony, and on August 6, 2007, Yao married Ye in a ceremony attended by close friends and family that was closed to the media.

Both of Yao’s parents are former professional basketball players.  Yao was born in Shanghai, China and started playing basketball at age nine when he also went to a junior sports school.


At 13, he first tried out for the Shanghai Sharks on the junior team of the Chinese Basketball Association and practiced for 10 hours a day before he finally make the team. He played on their senior team for five years in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and won a championship in his final year.

He entered the 2002 NBA Draft and was selected by the Houston Rockets as their first overall pick of the draft.

His rookie year in the NBA was the subject of a documentary filmThe Year of the Yao, and he co-wrote, along with NBA analyst Ric Bucher, an autobiography titled Yao: A Life in Two Worlds.