HOUSTON, Texas – Yao Ming will return to the city of some of his greatest basketball triumphs when he serves as a judge for the 2013 All-Star Game’s slam dunk event in Houston on Saturday.
Yao joins four other Houston Rockets’ legends, Clyde Drexler, Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon and Rudy Tomjanovich, to judge the competition, which this year pits three Eastern Conference players against a trio from the Western Conference.
Yao joined the Rockets after being the first pick in the 2002 NBA draft. After an initial period where he struggled to gain the acceptance of American fans and fellow NBA players, he eventually won them over with his dominant play, ingenious humor and easy-going personality. He went on to become an eight-time NBA All-Star.
Although his size was his strength, the rigors of top-flight basketball proved too much for Yao’s massive 7 foot 6 inch (2.29 meter) frame and his career was marked by lengthy absences from the court due to a succession of mostly foot and leg injuries.
He announced his retirement in July of 2011 following a trail-blazing career that made him China’s best-known athlete and helped spur the game’s growth all across Asia.
Yao played eight seasons with the Rockets, reaching the playoffs four times. In 486 games, he averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Saturday’s competition will feature six dunkers competing in a two-round competition.
Team West comprises 2012 champion Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, along with the Los Angeles Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe and the Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried.
The East includes Indiana Pacers’ Gerald Green, Toronto Raptors’ Terrence Ross and New York Knicks’ James White.