Yao Ming was an incredible basketball player for the Rockets. He may just be an even better person. Since retiring in 2011, Yao has traveled the world seeking to protect endangered wildlife, and his work is starting to bear fruit.
A few years ago, Yao began campaigning in China to discourage the consumption of shark fin soup, helping to reduce the sale of shark fins by between 50 and 70 percent in China, according to a profile in the Washington Post. Now, he is turning his efforts to stopping the buying and selling of elephant tusks in China, a trade that has decimated an already fragile African elephant population.
This, from the aforementioned profile:
"China is a rising economic country. More and more people are living in better economic conditions now, but we have to balance our desires," Yao said. "If we don't balance that, it is pretty obvious we cannot live alone on this planet. If there is a list of species going extinct, I am pretty sure we won't be last on that list."
If Yao was a natural basketball player, he is not such a natural on the global stage. But just as the quiet young man from China learned to survive in the NBA and live under the constant demands of his celebrity, his will to win seems just as strong as ever. "I can't lie to you, I am not a naturally outgoing person," he said. "But I know one thing: I have a job, and I have to finish it."
He may not be a Houston Rocket anymore, but Yao will always have a place in our hearts. Never change, Yao.