The 7-foot-6 Chinese star, plagued by lower-body injuries in the second half of his career, has informed the league office that his playing career is over, the website reported.
Yao’s contract expired after last season, and the Rockets said they were interested in re-signing him if he came back healthy. Yao said in April in China that his professional future depended on his recovery from a stress fracture in his left ankle.
John Huizinga, one of Yao’s American agents, would not confirm the report during a phone interview on Friday. He said Yao’s recovery was “on track,” but Yao’s future with the Rockets has been uncertain for some time.
“He’s really enjoyed his time in Houston,” Huizinga said. “If he feels that he’s recovered enough to play, and if the lockout ever ends, and if the Rockets are interested in him, then there’s certainly a good chance he’ll stay in Houston.
“But there are a whole lot of `ifs’ in that statement.”
An eight-time All-Star selection, Yao averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds in his eight seasons, but his impact on the league goes far beyond the numbers.
“There’s never been anything like him before,” Ganis said, “and I doubt we’ll ever see anything like him again.”
Ganis said Yao became an iconic symbol of China’s growth and status. He carried the Olympic torch through Tiananmen Square and proudly carried his country’s flag during the opening ceremonies in Beijing in 2008.
He also donated $2 million and set up a foundation to rebuild schools in the wake of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.
“He was the embodiment of the cultural aspirations of the Chinese society,” Ganis said. “He always talked about `team,’ always talked about sacrifice, always talked about those who needed help.”