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Yao Ming

A giant in stature and a giant in his global appeal, Yao Ming is a three-time Olympian and a seven-time NBA All-Star.

Yao is exceptionally tall, even in the over-sized land of NBA stars, measuring 2.29 metres or 7 feet 6 inches. And his presence, ability and talent became the focus of the American league's efforts to promote basketball around the world.

Yao made his Olympic debut at Sydney 2000, where China came 10th. And he helped his country finish 8th at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, where he was also his country's Flagbearer in the Opening Ceremony on both occasions.

He was also an Olympic Torch Relay runner for the 2008 Games in China, carrying the Olympic Flame into Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Yao played five seasons in the China with the Shanghai Sharks before moving to America, where he was the number one overall pick for the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft.

Yao earned all-star honours in his first seven seasons, helping the Rockets to playoff appearances on five occasions. He played his entire NBA career in Houston but, because of being consistently troubled by injury, retired in 2011.

The NBA began producing All-Star ballots in three languages (English, Spanish and Chinese) for fan voting for the starters for the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. Yao received nearly a quarter million more votes than American superstar Shaquille O'Neal.

Yao is one of China's most recognisable athletes and among the most marketable. Still involved in basketball, he even bought former club Shanghai when financial troubles threatened their existence.

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