Born on September 12, 1980, in Shanghai
Team: Houston Rockets
NBA Position: Center
Former Team: Shanghai Sharks

Yao Ming is ranked first in the Chinese edition of Forbes' celebrity power rankings for 2004. According to Forbes, he has the most press coverage and the second highest number of Web hits among Chinese personalities.

Since blasting his way into the NBA in October of 2002, Yao Ming, has been the center of attention among basketball fans worldwide. A mixture of athletic ability, raw talent and a whole lot of height has made Yao Ming one of the most talked about players today.

The only son to mother Fang Feng Di, and father Yao Zhi Yuan, Yao was introduced to basketball at an early age as he was growing up as an abnormally tall child. His parents, both of whom stood over six feet tall, flourished as successful basketball stars in their own right. Fang Feng Di, who stood at 6'3", played at the center position on China's national women's team, while Yao Zhi Yuan made a mark for himself as a 6'7" sharpshooter while playing for a local team in Shanghai.

Due to his irregular height as a youngster and his parents' history in the sport, it seemed like Yao's destiny was a given. But before the age of 10, Yao displayed very little interest in the game of basketball. Although he towered above all his classmates and friends, he wasn't comfortable playing the sport due to poor physical conditioning and his weak, lanky frame. But with a whole lot of encouragement from his parents, Yao began to develop his skills on the court and discovered a newfound appreciation for the game. Scouting reports noted Yao's agility and quickness for a player of his height while possessing a soft shooting touch and a shooting range out to 15 feet.

Soft-spoken, humorous Yao Ming is more than a magnificent basketball player. He is an explorer and a pioneer. Reminiscing about his childhood dream, he says "I wanted to be adventurer and explore the world." He reveled in geography and history. His stellar basketball moves have allowed him to begin accomplishing his childhood dreams.

Off the court, Yao has appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, ESPN the Magazine, SLAM, Inside Stuff and Basketball Digest during his rookie season. He also received the 2003 Laureus World Newcomer of the Year award and was featured in television commercials for Visa, Apple Computer and Gatorade. During the summer of 2003, he traveled back to China to play for the Chinese National Team and hosted a multinational telethon to raise funds to battle SARS.

Yao Ming has had one of the most exciting rookie years in NBA history. In the NBA, Yao Ming scored an average of 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.74 blocks per game, earning him unanimous NBA All-Rookie First Team honors. Yao reached three blocks 26 times, as Houston held a 22-4 record in these contests. He started at center for the Western Conference in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game after ranking fourth overall in All-Star balloting with 1,286,324 votes and was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December and February.