LOS ANGELES: Retired Chinese superstar Yao Ming is lining up investors to make a bid for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers if embattled owner Donald Sterling has to sell, ESPN.com reported on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Yao is just the latest celebrity to be linked to a potential Clippers bid since Sterling was engulfed in a scandal over racially charged remarks that became public in April.
ESPN, citing unnamed sources, said that Yao and another former NBA player, Grant Hill, were working separately to find investors to launch bids.
Celebrity gossip website TMZ and other US media outlets reported that Sterling has surrendered control of the club to his estranged wife, Shelly, who is in talks with the league to sell the team.
The Clippers are valued at nearly $600 million by Forbes magazine and could fetch substantially more given the publicity surrounding the team and its location in a major US market.
Yao became an NBA star with the Houston Rockets, who made him the first pick in the 2002 NBA draft.
Although his size was his strength, the rigors of top-flight basketball proved too much for Yao’s massive 7 foot 6 inch frame and his career was marked by lengthy absences from the court due to a succession of mostly foot and leg injuries.
He announced his retirement in July of 2011 following a trail-blazing career that made him China’s best-known athlete and helped spur the game’s growth all across Asia.
He owns a team in China, the Shanghai Sharks, and maintains close ties with the NBA.
Hill is just completing his first year in retirement after a 19-season career that ended with the Clippers after seven All-Star berths.
Other big names said to be interested in purchasing the clippers include software billionaire Larry Ellison, entertainment mogul David Geffen and television powerhouse Oprah Winfrey, along with former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and unbeaten boxer Floyd Mayweather.