SHANGHAI, July 20 (Xinhua) -- China's basketball phenom Yao Ming decided to leave his beloved court after all, with many thanks and some regrets to billions of fans around the world.
The Shanghai-born star announced his retirement from the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Wednesday afternoon at the Kerry Hotel of Pudong.
"Today, I would announce to everyone my personal decision: I will end my career as a basketball player and formally retire," Yao said in his farewell conference.
Yao cited foot injuries as the main reason for his retirement.
"At the end of last year, I once again had a stress fracture in my left foot and had to sit out basketball games," he said. "Since then, I waited and hoped that I could return. It was a frustrating period as many thoughts crossed my mind."
For the first time in his public appearances, Yao was accompanied by his parents, Yao Zhiyuan and Fang Fengdi, his wife Ye Li, and his daughter Yao Xinlei.
The conference was named "Ming Xie", which means saying thanks to honored people. Yao spent three minutes on the expression of thanks to a long list of teammates, coaches, friends, fans and people who care about him.
"Today, I retire from basketball, and a door is closed. But elsewhere, another door is open and outside that door is a fresh new world for me to experience and explore," he said.
He did not close the door to international games.
"I retire completely in the professional basketball point of view, but my basketball career has not come to an end," Yao told reporters. "There are many ways to extend my basketball career."
He did not answer the question about his possibility of competing at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The biggest news conference for Yao, even bigger than that when he was drafted on No.1 by the Rockets in 2002, was attended by three hundreds reporters from around the world and live broadcasted on a five-hour program by the Chinese Central Television.
Top officials from the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and Shanghai Sports Bureau, Houston Rockets' General Manager Darel Morey, Chief Executive Officer of the NBA China David Shoemaker, Yao's former Chinese coach Li Qiuping, and his agent Bill Duffy attended the meeting.
NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement on Yao's retirement, describing Yao as "a transformational player" .
"Since entering the league as the No.1 pick in the 2002 Draft, Yao ming has been a transformational player and a testament to the globalization of our game," Stern said. "
His dominant play and endearing demeanor along with is extensive humanitarian efforts have made him an international fan favorite and provided an extraordinary bridge between basketball fans in the United States and China."
Yao's retirement was first reported on July 9 by American media. Yao did not deny the reports and said a news conference was scheduled for July 20 to announce his plan.
Yao, who will turn 31 in September, averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in his nine-year career with the Rockets. He was selected to the starting line-up of the All-Star Games for eight season, except in the 2010-2011 season which he skipped for injuries.
He led the Rockets to the second round of playoffs in 2007-2008 season, the best in his professional days. He competed at the Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but China never got higher placings than an eighth.