I recently traveled to Shanghai, China to sit down with Yao Ming for his first extensive interview since his July retirement for an episode of In Depth. The former Houston Rockets' center opens up about what led to his decision to retire, shares the experience of first moving to Houston and details the injuries that plagued his NBA career. Yao Ming also speaks about his childhood in Shanghai, the cultural differences between China and the United States, and describes his plans for the future. Below are video clips from the television interview.
Yao Ming explains the reasons behind his retirement and discusses the likelihood that he will come out of retirement to play again in the NBA: "First time I was seriously thinking about my retirement is in 2009... when I needed a reconstruction operation and the doctor tells me 'If you're not doing this now, when you're 50 years old, you may need a wheelchair or crutches, and you definitely don't want to get that way when you're only 50 years old.' So I ask him again, 'What if I had this surgery? What is the chance for me back on court?' And he said 'You can play basketball again, but there is nothing is guaranteed.'"
Yao Ming says he has not been working out much and has gained 20 or 30 lbs since retirement: "I'm getting fat... because my size, I put on 20 or 30 pounds, it doesn't show very much... I'm thinking about going back to work out in a very short time."
Yao also says he may go to college this fall, saying: "I finished my high school. I think an educate is very, very important. Remember the NBA care. Always tell read to achieve, read to achieve. How can you not read to achieve and then tell other kids to read to achieve?"
Yao Ming details his serious injuries and why he is injury prone:
The former NBA center remembers a big mix-up in the locker room when he first got to Houston. In his Chinese language (Mandarin), "um" or "uh" sounds in English like a racial slur. Yao Ming tells the story of how that miscommunication turned heads in the locker room.
Yao Ming discusses the first time he went up against Shaquille O'Neal: "... you hear about he is very strong, he is very physical... I'm not really nervous at the very first time." On his first victory against O'Neal's Lakers: "You can have a long breathe after the game. You say, 'Oh, I'm survive. I'm still alive, and I won." Watch clip:
Yao Ming reflecting on fame and what he would do if he could be anonymous for one day: "Have a walk on a street in Shanghai, just looking around, have ice cream in my hands, and have my wife, and maybe holding my daughter, walk down there."
Yao Ming on his nerves when he first came to the United States and how at the last minute he considered instead staying in China: "...I'm not just a little bit, I'm scared about coming to the United States!"
Yao Ming on being deaf in one ear. Plus, how the Shanghai Sports Organization was interested in him from the time he was born because his parents both played in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association.)
Yao Ming on his life goal of carrying the Chinese flag into the Bird's Nest during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing: "I can feel the 1.3 billion people in the country on the ground I am standing on."
We traveled to the places in Shanghai, China that helped influence Yao Ming's basketball career.
Yao Ming tells why he was unable to play in NBA in 2001.
Yao Ming on why NBA is different from the CBA.
Yao Ming on his new baby girl and fatherhood.
Yao Ming on what his foundation is doing for kids.
Yao Ming on China evolving and the biggest area for improvement.
The full Yao Ming episode (the clips contain bonus content unable to make the full episode due to time constraints). Watch: