Chinese basketball fans woke up on Monday to reports that Yao Ming, the sport’s beacon in China, could be in line for a senior role with the national team.
Basketball Pioneers newspaper revealed in its Monday issue that Gou Zhongwen, the newly-appointed chief of China’s General Administration of Sport, had floated the appointment of the former US National Basketball Association player as “the head of China’s Basketball Association (CBA) as well as the national team’s coach.”
“Yao is the best candidate for the top job at the CBA considering his rich experience of playing in the US which helped widen his horizons,” the newspaper applauded in its report, noting that the proposal was among Gou’s “10 instructions” which all concerned the reformation of the sport’s administration.
Yao Ming (M) shows up at the opening ceremony of China's female volleyball championship in Shanghai, October 18, 2016. /CFP Photo
The involved offices could not be reached for comment on Monday as China is enjoying a three-day New Year national holiday. Yao Ming is also yet to respond to the report.
The 36-year-old Yao, one of the most beloved sporting icons in China, received the crowning glory of being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2016.
The former basketball star, who left the court behind in 2011, never fully withdrew from the sport. Yao bought the basketball club of Shanghai, his hometown, in 2009. Seven years later, he helped found CBA Company, aspiring to further commercialize the Chinese basketball championship. He then became entangled in a quarrel with the state administrators who run the CBA games.
Wang Zhelin (CHN, in red) of China shoots against Miroslav Raduljica (SRB) of Serbia in Men's Basketball Preliminary Round Group A Serbia v China, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 14, 2016. /CFP Photo
News of Yao's potential appointment comes as the memory of the Chinese men's basketball team’s humiliating trip in Rio is still fresh in fans' minds. Of the five games the team played during the 2016 Summer Olympics last August, it won none.
The majority of supporters seem to share the “cheerful tone” of the newspaper, believing that Chinese basketball’s future development would benefit from the appointment of a man who knows his trade so well.
“I was shocked to learn about this appointment”, commented @ZQLujilin on social media platform Weibo.“If confirmed this is definitely a step in the right direction.”