BEIJING, Jun (Reuters) - Yao Ming has cast doubt on his return to the NBA by admitting to the possibility he may not play again as he battles to recover from his latest injury, Chinese media reported.
The towering Houston Rockets center, China's most recognizable athlete, told CCTV he could not predict when, or indeed if, he would fully recover from a serious ankle fracture suffered last November.
"I don't know if I would join some champion team in the future," the China Daily quoted him as saying when asked about leaving a new-look Rockets team.
"I don't even know if I can play again."
Yao, however, said the prospect of playing in front of his baby daughter Amy gave him extra motivation to continue his injury-plagued career in the NBA.
"I wish she could watch me play and even win a championship," the 7ft-6in (2.28-meter) Yao said.
"Not only see through video highlights how her dad played. She is definitely a big motivation for me to continue, although my foot still needs lots of treatment.
"Walking or jogging is okay... but I need to get 80 percent of my strength back to play. I have got only about 30 percent at most now."
Yao confessed he was not sure how he would fit in with the plans of new Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
"A championship ring has become not so important in my plans," Yao said. "My main thought for the next 10 years is to look after my family and continue my community activities."
Yao's five-year contract with the Rockets, valued at $76 million, expires on June 30, with the threat of a lockout also looming.
The 30-year-old has triggered NBA-mania in China since being selected first overall by Houston in the 2002 draft but has been cursed by injury in the United States.
Yao insisted, however, it would be hard to leave the Rockets because of injury or a trade away.
"I have spent the best 10 years of my life playing and living (in Houston)," the All-Star said. "That makes it much harder to bid farewell."
(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by John O'Brien)