Yao Ming retires from basketball

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Yao Ming, who ignited China's interest in the NBA and became one of Asia's best-known athletes, announced his retirement from basketball on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old had been widely expected to retire after he told the Houston Rockets he would not be returning next season after two years blighted by injuries.

"Today I am retired from the game of basketball," Yao told a packed news conference in his home town of Shanghai. "Basketball has given me so much and I want to thank the game."

The seven-foot, six-inch (2.3-meter) Yao became the first international player to be made top pick in the NBA draft when the Rockets called his name in 2002.

Yao averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game over eight seasons, though he played in just five games in his final two years.

(Additional reporting by Samuel Shen)

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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