Sorry, but Yao Ming won't be playing

‡Former Houston Rockets center and Shanghai Oriental Basketball Club Co. Ltd. chairman Yao Ming listens to questions during a press conference held in Solaire Resort and Casino in Paranaque City, south of Manila, on 05 May 2013. Ming is in town for his team’s two-day Friendship Games against Gilas Pilipinas and a Philippine Basketball Association selection. (Voltaire Domingo/NPPA Images)

As far as Yao Ming’s basketball career is concerned, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

The Chinese basketball icon confirmed Sunday that he won’t be suiting up when the Shanghai Sharks tangle two local squads in a pair of exhibition matches at the Mall of Asia Arena and also at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

“I no longer have a uniform with the team, and my past injuries keep me from playing,” said the towering 7-foot-6 center through an interpreter in a press conference at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Pasay City.

The top overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, Yao made a good account of himself as a Houston Rocket, helping the team reach four post-season appearances before abruptly retiring in 2011 due to a spate of nagging foot injuries.

But two years before hanging up his sneakers, the eight-time NBA All-Star already brought the Sharks since his former club was facing the specter of not playing in the Chinese Basketball Association due to financial woes.

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Now, Yao is contented in dealing with the business side of the game while serving as the sport’s “global ambassador.”

Asked to comment on the ongoing NBA playoffs, the Chinese superstar picked the defending champion Miami Heat and four-time champion San Antonio Spurs to meet in the NBA Finals, although he wouldn't say which team would win it all.

Spearheaded by national team skipper Liu Wei and promising 6-foot-11 center Zheng Yali, the Sharks first test the mettle of Gilas Pilipinas on Monday at the MOA Arena then square off with the PBA Selection, handled by Air21 coach Franz Pumaren, at the Big Dome on Tuesday.

Organized by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Chinese Embassy, the pair of exhibition games “can only bring our countries closer together through sports,” according to Yao.

With the arrival of Yao and the Sharks, PSC chairman Richie Garcia sounded confident more Chinese teams will set foot in the country, saying: “We hope this will just be a start for many Chinese teams to visit our country for friendly matches.”

Shanghai coach Wang Qun, meanwhile, wouldn’t divulge too much about their game plan, saying: “It’s a secret, or I can’t coach tomorrow. I can only say that tomorrow will be an exciting game.”

The Sharks, including Yao, also conducted a basketball clinic at the Philsports Arena Sunday afternoon and paid a courtesy call to Vice President Jejomar Binay.