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Yao says team purchase does not mean retirement

AP / July 18, 2009
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BEIJING - Yao Ming says his purchase of his former team, the financially troubled Shanghai Sharks, was motivated by a desire to help the club that jump-started his career rather than by early retirement plans.

The 7-foot-6 Houston Rockets center, currently sidelined with a foot injury, signed an agreement this week to purchase all of the shares of the Sharks team for an undisclosed amount of money.

“Two generations of my family have fought for this team and some of the best memories of growing up in Shanghai are inseparable from the team,’’ Yao said in an interview Friday with the official Xinhua News Agency.

“Playing in the NBA over the past few years, I have always cared about the Sharks and hoped the best for them.’’

Following the withdrawal of the Sharks’ main sponsor earlier this year, the team faced financial problems which led the Chinese Basketball Association to announce that the team may be unable to meet the league’s entry requirements next year, Xinhua said.

Yao said he was worried after watching the team flounder due to the lack of sponsorship and decided to seize the opportunity to buy the team this week.

“The fans in Shanghai have always supported me, so it’s a pleasure to do something for the fans in return,’’ Yao said.

Yao deflected suggestions the purchase brought him one step closer to preparing for early retirement since he broke his left foot in early May. He is still consulting with doctors about the hairline fracture that may sideline him indefinitely, Xinhua reported.

“I do not have any plans to retire and my doctors and I are very confident that I can fully recover and return to the stadium; the team and the acquisition has nothing to do with my injury,’’ Yao said.

Yao, 28, played with the Shanghai Sharks from 1997 to 2002 and took them to the league championship title in the 2001-2002 season, after being runner-up in the playoffs the previous two years. The team has struggled to make the playoffs since his departure for the NBA.

Yao said the purchase was not an investment risk, as he intends to create a team that will win championships and attract fans.

“I am prepared to invest money into this team in the long run and I believe that in China’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic city, there is potential for the development of such a team,’’ he said.

Yao said he will not take part in the team’s day-to-day operations and management, but will contribute to its general direction and operations.

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