Yao Ming | Wife, Meme & Net Worth

Yao Ming is a Chinese-born former professional basketball player who played eight seasons in the NBA for the Houston Rockets. He is presently the incumbent President of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Ming is one of the most influential players China has ever produced. After consistent astounding performances for China and Shanghai Sharks in the early 2000s, he entered the NBA as the top pick of the 2002 draft.

The player went on to have a great NBA career. He became an NBA All-Star in every league edition he played until 2011. However, Ming never lifted the championship ring.

Yao Ming with the Shanghai Sharks (Source: Frank Fu & China Sports)
Yao Ming with the Shanghai Sharks (Source: Frank Fu & China Sports)

The giant center from Shanghai remained in the spotlight for his game throughout his career. As a center, he was naturally good at blocking and rebounding, but that was not the only thing that was special about him.

Now let’s dive into this fantastic athlete’s life, career, and more in the article below. Before that, here are some quick facts.

Quick Facts

Full NameYao Ming
Date of BirthSeptember 12, 1980
Birth PlaceShanghai, China
Nick NamesChairman Yao, The Great Wall, etc.
ReligionNon-Religious
NationalityChinese
Zodiac Sign Virgo
Age42 years old
Height2.29 m (7 feet 6 inches)
Weight310 lb (141 kg)
Hair ColorBlack
Eye ColorDark brown
BuildAthletic
Father’s NameYao Zhiyuan
Mother’s NameFang Fengdi
SiblingsNone
Marital StatusMarried
Sexual OrientationStraight
Wife’s NameYe Li
KidsOne (Yao Qinlei)
Former ProfessionBasketball player
NBA Draft2002 / Round: 1 / 1st pick overall
PositionCenter
League National Basketball Association (NBA)
Active Years(1997 – 2011)
Net Worth$100 – $175 million
Currently Plays ForNone / Retired
Jersey Number11
Social Media Instagram, Twitter
MerchPaperback
Last UpdateDecember, 2022

Yao Ming | Early Life & Family

On September 12, 1980, Yao Ming was born in Shanghai, China. He is the only son of Yao Zhiyuan and Fang Fengdi. Both of his parents played professional basketball during their younger days.

Ming weighed 5 kg at the time of his birth which is almost twice the weight of an average newborn kid. 

Yao Ming with his parents (Source: daydaynews.cc)
Yao Ming with his parents (Source: daydaynews. cc)

As his parents were former basketball players, he was already quite familiar with the sport. However, he never saw his parents play league games as they had to leave basketball games and do government-assigned work at that time.

Just some years before Yao’s birth, China was going through the Cultural Revolution, which Chairman Mao had started in 1966 for the socialistic transformation of Chinese society from a backward semi-feudal system. 

As the period of structural transition is often very tough, every Chinese felt that personally, including Ming’s parents. Although the end result of Mao’s campaign could not be what he had expected it to be, there were many positive changes.

One among them was a state-sponsored sports school that later produced the Yao Ming, who ruled the NBA for almost a decade. When he was nine, he started attending sports school and practicing to become a professional basketball player.

He has stated that he had initially started playing basketball for fun, but it became an essential thing in his life in the long run.

Yao Ming | Basketball Career

Professional Career

Yao first started playing league basketball for the junior team of the Shanghai Sharks when he was just thirteen.

In the years afterward, he worked on his basketball skills and eventually debuted for the Sharks in the CBA in 1997.

Although many basketball officials and stakeholders had told him to join the NBA, he had initially turned down their request.

However, after Wang Zhizhi made a move, he followed him to the NBA draft in 2002.

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NBA Career

There was widespread media speculation that Yao would get selected as a first pick in the NBA. Confirming it, the Houston Rockets picked him as the 2002 NBA draft’s 1st pick.

With that pick, Yao became the first foreign player who entered the NBA as a first pick without playing American college basketball.

Yao Ming in the Houston Rockets jersey (Source: CGTN)
Yao Ming in the Houston Rockets jersey (Source: CGTN)

Contrary to popular sports analysts’ opinion that his NBA would end up in failure, Yao had a fantastic performance from the start.

He finished his rookie season with an average of 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Yao was also selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team for his performance.

Yao played almost all matches for the Rockets until his fourth NBA season. On top of that, he had a drastic improvement in his offensive game and kept scoring more points in the last matches.

National Team Career

Besides his professional career, Yao Ming has represented the Chinese national teams in numerous international events. He first played for them in the Summer Olympics in 2000.

Ming has also played for them in other tournaments such as Asian Cup, World Championships, etc., among many others.

Although the Chinese national team never lifted World championships and Olympics trophies under him, they always did well in Asian tournaments. Ming has won three Asian Cups for China.

Yao Ming | Injuries

Yao had his first significant injury in his fourth season, because of which he only played 57 matches. He had a foot injury and had to undergo toe surgery before full recovery.

Yao had impressive stats despite the inconvenience, and his fans voted him for the All-Star game.

Similarly, he had a knee injury in his fifth season, but he could average 25.0 points and 9.4 rebounds per game that season. 

Except for the 2008-09 season in the latter half, Yao missed many games every season due to various major injuries.

Although he made it to the All-Star games in all seasons he appeared, he missed many of them.

Apart from previous foot and knee injuries, Yao suffered significant injuries related to his foot and ankle throughout the rest of his career.

Although he wanted to play for some more time in the NBA, he had to quit his league career in 2011.

He announced his retirement on July 20, 2011, through a press conference in Shanghai, China.

Awards & Achievements

Some of his awards and achievements include:

  • CBA champion (2002)
  • Jersey no.11 was retired by the Houston Rockets
  • CBA rebounding leader (2000-02)
  • CBA Slam Dunk leader (2000, 2001)
  • All-NBA Second Team (2007, 2009)
  • FIBA Asia Cup MVP (2001, 2003, 2005)
  • CBA blocks leader (2000, 2001, 2002)

Yao Ming | Net Worth & Career Earnings

One of the highest-paid athletes, Yao Ming, has a net worth somewhere between $100 million to $175 million. As per Forbes, Ming had earned $51 million from games and other means in a single season in 2008.

Yao has made around $93 million just from his overall NBA career. When the Houston Rockets signed him in 2002, they paid him approximately $4 million for his rookie season.

Similarly, they offered him nearly $4.2 million for his second season. As his performance kept getting better, the Rockets kept him with them throughout his playing career and raised his salary on an annual basis.

Although he could not give his best due to frequent injuries, Ming received over $17 million in the 2010-11 season, the last season in the NBA. If you want to learn more about his past salary details, check out hoopshype.com

Besides club earnings, a large part of his money came from his deals with various famous brands. After getting picked in the draft, Ming immediately signed with the Nike shoes, and his association with them lasted until the end of his rookie season.

Furthermore, he was associated with other companies like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Reebok, Apple, McDonald’s, etc. 

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Actively Involved in Good Deeds

As someone who sympathizes with socialism, Ming has a deep concern for environmental and social issues and always strives to work for the collective good, which he has often shown by engaging in social works.

For that same reason, the Chinese Communist Party awarded him the Proletarian Award in 2005. 

Ming has spoken out in support of environmental and animal conservation on numerous occasions. He had made a film back in 2012 to make people aware of northern white rhinoceros and the urgency to save them from extinction.

Similarly, he is associated with various projects for elephant protection. He worked with the team that had produced a documentary film named The End of the Wild and has also worked closely with WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation for the same reason.

Besides that, Yao has been a part of various charities and philanthropic campaigns, such as one hosted in 2003 to prevent the spread of SARS, relief works during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, etc.

He also established Yao Ming Foundation and has been involved in several programs that provide necessary assistance to underprivileged children in China.

Yao Ming | Wife & Kids

Yao is married to a former Chinese basketball player named Ye Li. Ming first met Li in 1997 when he was just 17 years old. Although he was interested in her, Ye was unsure if she wanted to start a relationship with him.

However, both were in the early phase of their basketball career, and everyone enjoyed the gossip. As per the reports, Ye later accepted the proposal he made by gifting her team pins he had acquired in the Summer Olympics in 2000.

Yao Ming with his wife and daughter (Source: inf.news)
Yao Ming with his wife and daughter (Source: inf. news)

Ye Li was born a year later in Shanghai, China, the same city Yao was born and raised. The 6 feet 3 inches tall Li had represented the Chinese women’s basketball team at the Summer Olympics in 2004.

Her relationship with Yao was confirmed during the same event when she appeared together with him during the closing ceremony.

After dating for years, the lovers eventually married on August 6, 2007. They have a daughter named Yao Qinlei. She was born on May 21, 2010, in Houston, Texas.

Yao Ming | Meme Story

In 2009, Yao Ming and his Rockets teammate, Metta World Peace, appeared together and talked to the reporters in a press conference organized after the NBA playoffs.

Little did he know then that the moment captured during that event would immortalize him among the Internet meme community. His hilarious laugh after Metta cracked a joke has become a popular meme template since 2010.

Yao Ming meme template
Yao Ming meme template (Source: Sports Illustrated)

The first template was created and submitted by a memer with the username Downlow in 2010 on Reddit. Soon after, many other memers worldwide found it funny and started making memes using his funny face on numerous topics.

The meme template, generally referred to as “Bitch Please,” has become an essential part of popular meme culture and is widely celebrated even by young people who don’t know about Ming, the Player. 

Some Interesting Facts About Yao Ming

  • A documentary film named The Year of the Yao was released in 2004, which mainly focuses on his NBA rookie year.
  • Ming has worked as a voice actor for a character in the 2009 Chinese animated movie, The Magic Aster.
  • Ming owns a winery named Yao Family Wines in Napa Valley, California, which started in 2016.
  • Yao Ming graduated with a degree in Economics from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2018.

Social Media

Instagram: @yao

Twitter: @YaoMing

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal friends?

Yes, Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal are now friends. However, during their active years, their rivalry was one of the most talked-about things in the sports media. During their career, they confronted each other 18 times, among which Yao won eight.

O’Neal was also accused of racism against Ming in 2003, which he denied by saying that he was joking. On the other hand, Ming also did not take that matter seriously.

Is Yao Ming the Hall of Famer?

Yes, Yao Ming is the Hall of Famer. He entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016 together with Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson.

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