AP Photo/Elise Amendola (left), Screenshot from YouTube (right)

Yao Ming's Wife Was an Olympic Basketball Player, Too

In the forest of NBA players, Yao Ming is at the very top.

Standing 7-foot-6, the basketball star trails only Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol as the tallest player in NBA history. With height that only a few humans can claim, the pool for significant others in the same stratosphere is limited.

Yao didn't have a problem. His wife, former basketball player Ye Li, stands 6-foot-3.

Yao Ming's Wife Ye Li

Yao met fellow Chinese basketball player Ye Li when he was 17 years old. She wasn't interested at first, but Yao was persistent.

Yao gave Ye the team pins he collected at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, to show his affection. Nothing like trinkets from a once-in-a-lifetime event to win over the woman of your dreams.


The couple went public with their relationship when they appeared together at the 2004 Athens Olympics closing ceremony. Both Yao and Ye competed for the Chinese national team.

On August 6, 2007, the couple married in a ceremony attended only by close friends and family.

Not much else is known about Ye Li, but a simple Google search will reveal her Wikipedia page as well as other people named Ye Li, including someone who earned his PhD from Columbia University and teaches at Ohio State University and an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside. None of them, however, are Yao Ming's wife.

On May 21, 2010, the basketball-playing husband and wife welcomed a daughter, Yao Qinlei (whose English name is Amy). The child was born in Houston, Texas.

According to reports, she stood as tall as 5-foot-5 at 10 years old.

Yao Ming's Basketball Career

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Yao Ming was born to professional basketball players Yao Zhiyuan and Fang Fengdi on September 12, 1980 in Shanghai, China. He started playing basketball at nine-years-old and attended a junior sports school. At 17, Yao started playing professionally with the Shanghai Sharks.

Yao averaged 23.2 points and 15.6 rebounds in five years with the team. As one of the most highly touted international prospects ever, Yao migrated to the United States where he was the first-overall pick by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft.

He had a great career in the Association:

— 8x NBA All-Star
— 2x All-NBA Second Team
— 3x All-NBA Third Team
— NBA All-Rookie First Team (2003)
— No. 11 Retired by Houston Rockets

For his nine-year NBA career, Yao averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.9 blocks. He sat out the 2009-10 season due to a foot injury.

Yao and the Rockets battled the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers, where he dueled Shaquille O'Neal, throughout his career. The farthest Houston advanced in the playoffs was the 2009 Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers, where the Rockets fell to the eventual champion in seven games.

The superstar center announced his retirement from the league at a press conference in Shanghai on July 20, 2011.

Yao carried the Olympic flame as part of the Olympic torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Yao and the Chinese basketball team lost to Lithuania in the quarterfinals.

The five-time All-NBA player was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016 alongside Shaq and Allen Iverson.

Yao is currently the president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).

With sponsorships from large companies like Visa, a lucrative net worth, and the Yao Ming Foundation that was created in response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Yao is a well-rounded individual.

His family will always be priority No. 1.

This post was originally published on December 12, 2020.

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