Yao Ming has resigned as head of the Chinese Basketball Association

BEIJING – Former Houston Rockets star Yao Ming has resigned as head of China’s national basketball league.

An eight-time NBA All-Star, Yao has been leading efforts to commercialize the top-tier 20-team Chinese Basketball Association Management Co. since his appointment in 2017.

A notice thanking Yao for his service on the CBA website. It did not indicate the reason behind Yao’s departure, except that the board of directors decided it was time for new leadership.

Yao was one of the first Chinese athletes to become an international household name when the Rockets drafted him with the first pick in 2002. The 7-foot-6 center played eight seasons in the NBA before retiring in 2011, citing chronic injuries.

Allegations of corruption have dogged the CBA in recent years. Both teams, Jiangsu Dragons and Shanghai Sharks, were eliminated from the league finals last month after the Sharks were found to have engaged in unsportsmanlike conduct during a series of turnovers that led to a come-from-behind victory.

The result was ruled suspicious and led to speedy trials and punishments for both teams. Managers and coaching staff from each team are banned from the league for up to five years.

China’s basketball and football leagues have attracted foreign talent and commercial endorsements, but have been weighed down by uncertain ownership lineups and government influence. Some officials were put on trial for bribery and other forms of corruption.

Yao is replaced by veteran sports journalist Xu Zhicheng, who served on the bidding and oversight committees for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and last year’s Winter Games.

Basketball became very popular in China due to Yao’s storied NBA career. Despite a year-long ban on NBA games in the country after a team executive angered Beijing with comments supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

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