Career: Shanghai Sharks (China-CBA, 1997-2002), Houston Rockets (NBA, 2002-08).
Yao’s parents both played basketball. His mother was the captain of the Chinese Women’s National Team in the 1960s and ’70s while his father was a 2.08m center for the Shanghai team. Yao, who began playing basketball at the age of nine, went to Shanghai Junior Sports School. In April, 1998, he was chosen for the Chinese National Team. When the Rockets selected Yao with the first pick of the 2002 NBA draft, he was the first international player ever picked number one overall. In 2004, Yao played on the team that upset world champions Serbia to reach the quarter-finals of the Athens Games. Injuries have plagued his career, and a stress fracture in his foot in early March 2008 cut short his best-ever season with the Houston Rockets. Yao needed four months to recover after an operation and had just one month of training with the National Team before his country hosted this summer’s Olympics