Yao Ming, best-known Chinese athletes and one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in 2003, began playing basketball at the age of nine, and evolved into a dazzling athletic star playing for the Chinese Youth Team, CBA and NBA successively. He became the first international player to ever be selected without having previously played in college basketball in the US.
Yao’s career led him to become a major bridge between China and the US, and solidified the NBAs popularity in China. In joining the NBA, Yao had to overcome tough obstacles, but Yao soon showed the world his deft abilities and devotion. Although injuries lead to a shortened career, he is still considered to have been one of the best players for his age group. In 2008 he played for the Chinese National Basketball Team in the Beijing Olympics. Tenacity and perseverance brought Yao success in both the Chinese and US basketball associations.
After retirement, Yao engaged in charitable and humanitarian efforts. He created the Yao Ming Foundation in response to the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, which is committed to providing educational opportunities for children in China and the US. Yao serves as a global ambassador for the Special Olympics and Wildaid, creating public service announcements and supporting efforts to prevent harm to endangered wildlife. He is the owner of the Shanghai Sharks basketball team, and is committed to developing the sport of basketball in China.
On and off the court, Yao Ming has beaten the odds and successfully built a strong connection through basketball between China and the US. Today, he continues to contribute to this relationship through business and philanthropy.
Yao Ming, holding the US China Outstanding Contribution Award, presented by Colin Wu, Vice Chairman of the US China Business Association, at the Third Award Ceremony at the Root of Shanghai, Snowflakes Lake Resort, Feb. 7th, 2015 in Shanghai.