Chinese basketball player and NBA superstar Yao Ming speaks during a press conference in Shanghai on July 20, 2011. (Philippe Lopez / AFP)
SHANGHAI, November 7, 2011 (AFP) - Recently retired Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming enrolled at an elite university in Shanghai on Monday, state media said, four months after he quit the game because of nagging injury problems.
The former Houston Rockets centre said after his first day at the Antai College of Economics and Management of Shanghai Jiao Tong University that he had a "strong desire" for academic studies, the Xinhua news agency said.
Yao, 31, China's first global sports superstar with a personal brand valued at more than $1 billion, took lessons in mathematics, English and modern Chinese history on his first day at university in his home city.
"I liked the history subject when I was in high school and I was so eager to sit in the classroom to have my first history class in college," Yao was reported as saying.
But he also expressed fears he might have too much on his plate.
"I think I need a better schedule as I cannot study full-time as a normal college student. I've got other things to do and I need to balance my time," he said.
The towering 2.29m (7ft 6in) Yao is owner of the Shanghai Sharks, the team where he started his professional career and which he bought in 2009.
Since his retirement he has done some television work commentating on basketball.
The NBA All-Star has in the past used his fame to confront Chinese taboos ranging from the treatment of people with HIV to boycotting shark fin soup.
He remains one of China's national heroes despite giving up the game prematurely because of repeated foot and leg injuries.