For a household name like former NBA star Yao Ming, it's hard to avoid attention, no matter what you do.
After Yao's glorious return from the NBA in 2009, his new role has been president of his home basketball team in Shanghai. Now, his latest move to lead the preparatory committee for new Chinese Basketball Assocatino (CBA) leadership has renewed public speculation over whether the star player's next stop will be China’s preeminent basketball organization.
Yao’s position with the preparatory committee was announced on Jan. 9 at a press conference held by the CBA. He is to lead the committee that, together with CBA Vice President Li Jinsheng, will select the association's new leadership. A meeting about the CBA's leadership transition will be held in March, when new leaders and representatives will be selected.
Speaking at the press conference, Yao said the new generation of CBA leaders will focus more on the basketball-loving public, and should shoulder responsibility for pushing basketball in China to new heights.
In an exclusive interview with People’s Daily Online, Yao said he is confident about shouldering the responsibility, and that it is possible to deal with new problems using methods different from those used in the past. He pointed out that it is crucial to balance relations between the government and social groups in sports reform: the government should protect the sports industry, while social groups should be allowed to manage it.
Prior to the announcement about Yao’s new position, speculation about his new role went viral after the General Administration of Sports reportedly considered appointing Yao as the new CBA head and national team coach, according to Basketball Pioneers.
While the administration refused to comment on the issue, its spokesperson said on Jan. 4 that it is possible and necessary to absorb excellent athletes who also wield remarkable social influence to lead sports organizations “when conditions are ripe,” China News Service reported.
Meanwhile, a Xinhua News Agency commentary on Jan. 3 suggested that 36-year-old Yao may be too young and inexperienced to chair the CBA, even though the former NBA star and incumbent Shanghai team owner displays true passion and boasts an excellent reputation for club management.
In 2016, Yao formed a corporation with the backing of 18 out of the 20 CBA clubs, aiming to reform Chinese basketball based on the image of the NBA, giving each team more say in the business. After months of difficult negotiations, Yao's effort was foiled when the CBA formed its own version of a "private" corporation, with the CBA holding a 30 percent share and each of the 20 clubs a 3.5 percent share, guaranteeing the CBA's ongoing control, according to the Global Times.