Yao Ming is the new president of the Chinese Basketball Association

Yao Ming speaks at his Hall of Fame induction in September. (AP)
Yao Ming speaks at his Hall of Fame induction in September. (AP)

The biggest name in the history of Chinese basketball now holds the top spot in the country’s top league. As reported on Thursday, the Chinese Basketball Association has made newly enshrined Basketball Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets great Yao Ming as its new president.

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From the Associated Press report:

The Chinese Basketball Association has voted unanimously to appoint Hall of Famer Yao Ming as its president.

The CBA’s social media account quoted Yao as saying at a ceremony on Thursday that he hoped to reform the domestic league’s draft system and push more Chinese players into the international arena.

Yao’s appointment is considered as a reform step for an association which until now has typically been led by government sports officials.

Yao has previously served as president and owner of the CBA’s Shanghai Sharks, his team before becoming the first pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. He purchased the team in 2009 during a period of turmoil for the franchise, when it looked like they were at risk of becoming insolvent.

His presence at the top of the CBA’s hierarchy brings instant international name recognition to the league. Yao remains one of the most successful international players in NBA history and a true icon of the global game. He is respected all over the world and brings a broad perspective to an organization that seems to desire an approach informed by basketball leagues in other countries.

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It is likely that most NBA fans in the western hemisphere will not hear much about Yao’s reforms. The CBA is not widely watched in America and often earns attention only when a former NBA player such as Stephon Marbury makes a notable impact. Perhaps Yao will attempt to promote events around the world — at events like his recent Rockets jersey retirement — but it’s fair to say we’re not going to get breathless updates on the CBA’s draft structure every few days. If we ever do, then Yao will have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

What’s most clear, regardless of Yao’s success in the role, is that he’s not going to shy away from a prominent role in Chinese sports any time soon. At just 36 years old, he has lots of work left to do.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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