HOUSTON, Feb.2 (Xinhua) -- Former NBA star Yao Ming was warmly welcomed on Thursday in Houston before the Rockets' formal retirement of his #11 jersey at Toyota Center on Friday night.
During a reception held at city hall on Thursday afternoon, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner named Feb. 2 "Yao Ming Day" and welcomed Yao as the city's Goodwill Ambassador.
In 2013, Yao was appointed by former mayor Annise Parker as Houston's Goodwill Ambassador. The appointment was made because of the outstanding success he enjoyed with the Rockets since 2003, including eight years taking part in the All-Star Games. Yao was also lauded for the international connections he fostered and the cultural enhancement he afforded to the Houston community.
On Thursday afternoon, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spoke highly of Yao's contribution as a basketball player and as a cultural ambassador.
Turner also congratulated Yao on the occasion of his jersey retirement.
Rockets boss Leslie Alexander praised Yao as one of the greatest basketball players in the world.
Chinese Consul General to Houston Li Qiangmin said that Yao is a significant figure both for Houston and for China-U.S. relations. He described Yao as an ambassador of sports, who promotes cultural cooperation between the two countries through the medium of sports, fostering friendship between the two peoples.
Later on Thursday night, a local fan club also held a reception to welcome Yao.
Yao, along with his family, arrived in Houston on Jan. 31. He thanked the mayor and Houstonians for their kindness during his ten year career in the city.
Yao retired from the Rockets in 2011 and became a Rockets Hall of Famer last year.
The Rockets will hold a special ceremony at Toyota Center on Friday night to retire Yao's No. 11 jersey. He will become the sixth Houston Rocket to have his number and jersey retired. Enditem