(CNN) -- NBA star Yao Ming announced his retirement during a news conference in China on Wednesday.
"I need to make a personal decision," Yao said. "I am ending my basketball career. I am very grateful. I like to thank my family members and my parents. And the Houston Rockets."
Voted an All-Star player eight times while playing for the Houston Rockets, he was one of the most successful overseas players in the league.
Yao has chalked up a career average of 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. His field-goal percentage was 52.4.
In recent years, however, he struggled with foot and ankle injuries, and missed the 2009-2010 season. He suffered a stress fracture on his left ankle, and missed last season after playing only five games.
Yao has been undergoing treatment and training in recent months, but some doubted he could make a comeback.
The 30-year-old said he struggled to learn English when he first came to the United States, and grew a lot during his time in the country.
"Nine years ago, I came to Houston as a tall, skinny player. I grew to a man there. I also had my daughter there. I thank you all," Yao said during the packed news conference in Shanghai.
Yao's retirement comes the same year as another NBA giant Shaquille O'Neal . Both seven-footers battled for many years.
Kobe Bryant said Yao opened up doors for Chinese players to feel they could play in the NBA.
"All that started with Yao," Bryant said.
NBA Commissioner David Stern said the player has done his country proud.
"Yao has been without question a transformational player for our league," Stern said. "And a source of enormous pride to the people of China and people of Chinese descent in the United States."