Yao Ming signed a five-year contract worth more than US$75 million on Thursday, keeping the 2.29m center with the Houston Rockets through the 2010-11 NBA season.
The extension, the maximum allowed under the NBA's new labor deal, ended days of speculation about Yao's future. Owner Leslie Alexander called the agreement "as important as anything I've done as an owner."
"I think he could become one of greatest players in the history of the game," Alexander said during a conference call from New York. "To have the next great big man tied up for a long time is very, very important for this team and I believe it will give us a chance to compete for the championship for many years to come."
The contract will be 25 percent of the salary cap, meaning the first year will be worth an estimated US$12.5 million. The three-time NBA All-Star has one year remaining on his rookie contract, which will pay him more than US$5.5 million next season.
Yao said through an interpreter that the decision to remain in Houston was easy because he loves the city and his teammates.
"I have Mr. Alexander's trust and the chance to play in Houston," Yao said on the call from Beijing. "I believe I will have a great career in Houston. I want to win a championship in Houston and playing with Tracy McGrady, I believe we can do it."
Yao, currently working with the Chinese national team, averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds and two blocks last season. He has averaged 16.4 points and 8.5 rebounds in his three-year career.
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