• Yao Ming going head-to-head against fellow Hall of Famer Shaquille O' Neal

Yao Ming going head-to-head against fellow Hall of Famer Shaquille O' Neal (Photo : Twitter)

The National Basketball Association retired former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming in a ceremony on Friday.

Stellar career

The ceremony took place during the halftime break for the Rockets' game against the Chicago Bulls at the Toyota Center, China Sports Beat reported. In his remarks during the televised event, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander hailed Yao as not only as an exceptional player, but also an ambassador to the world from China.

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For his part, Yao said that he never really expected that he would become this big of a star, "I only wanted to play basketball," he remarked.

The 7 feet, 6 in. Yao was drafted by the Rockets as their first round pick in 2002 to much fanfare. He went on to spend his nine-year NBA career with the team, averaging 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks in 486 games.

Yao was also selected as a starter eight times for the Western Conference during the All-Star game. He also managed to beat NBA legend Michael Jordan's record in the number of All-Star votes, amassing more than 2.5 million votes in 2005.

However, a foot injury forced him to sit out the entirety of the 2009-10 season. In the following season, he was only able to play five games, this time due to an ankle injury, forcing him to finally hang up his no. 11 jersey.

In September of 2016, Yao was inducted into the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame with other greats like Shaquille O' Neal and Allen Iverson.

Fond memories

Yao also recalled his early days in Houston during the ceremony. He said that when he first arrived in the city, it felt no different from any other US city. But, as he spent more time in the city, it became more familiar and dear to him.

The 36-year old basketball star also recalled how he surprised by his teammates for Chinese New Year during his rookie year. He adds that he was given a red envelope containing some bills as part of the tradition. Yao chuckled as he revealed that he still keeps some of the bills in his pockets, as these serve as a reminder of his second home in Houston, USA Today reported.

Yao also said that he hopes that whenever people see his jersey, it's not only him who they will remember, but also his teammates and the opponents he played against during his career.