WUHAN - Retired Chinese basketball star Yao Ming has garnered rave reviews for his new role as a commentator on Team China games at the Asian Championships, with colorful insights and playful remarks.
Sports commentators have praised Yao -- who quit the game in July but remains one of the country's top sporting heroes -- for his game analysis and for injecting some humor by poking fun at his former teammates.
"He's made a big difference. He has definitely attracted viewers," the Basketball Pioneer newspaper quoted China Central Television official Qi Xin as saying.
"Audiences always want to hear him. No matter what he says, it becomes a headline."
In a recent post-game interview with China's veteran center Wang Zhizhi, Yao joked about a rare dunk the 33-year-old former Dallas Maverick threw down on Syria.
"The last time you dunked the ball, your six-year-old son hadn't been born," Yao quipped.
In advising opponents on how to stop Washington Wizard power forward Yi Jianlian, Yao said: "They could try using pepper spray on their hands and wave them in front of Yi's face when he posts up."
During Yao's first turn as a commentator on national broadcaster CCTV on September 15 when China played against Bahrain, Qi said ratings climbed to a hefty 1.3 percent, up from 1.1 percent for the NBA finals.
"Yao not only explains the what, he explains the why and he does it without all of the ranting and rambling that usually accompanies all of that with other announcers both in China and the United States," said the Niubball site which blogs about Chinese basketball.
The seven-foot-six-inch (2.29 meter) Yao, 31, called it quits after being dogged by injuries following an eight-year career with the NBA Houston Rockets.
The hugely popular athlete has been credited with spurring the game's global growth, and serving as an important cultural bridge between the United States and China.