Mayor Annise Parker has named former Houston Rockets' star Yao Ming as an Honorary Goodwill Ambassador for the city of Houston.
In a Feb. 15 ceremony at City Hall, Yao was given a key to the city. Yao, who was in town to attend the NBA All-Star Game, will promote the city on the international stage.
"Yao Ming has been a role model for many Houstonians as a professional NBA player, but also as a benevolent resident who cares about our city and children everywhere, especially when disaster strikes," Mayor Parker said in a statement. "With his resounding international fame, Yao Ming will be the perfect goodwill ambassador for our city."
The Chinese basketball star was Houston's first pick in the 2002 NBA draft and starred in the NBA for several years before retiring due to injuries in 2011.
Yao and his wife set up the Yao Ming Foundation in 2008 in response to the Sichuan earthquake with a plan to rebuild several schools, and the foundation also gave a $100,000 grant to Houston nonprofit Collaborative for Children to rebuild playgrounds destroyed by Hurricane Ike.
"For over a decade, Houston has been my second home outside China … while I continue to work hard to represent my country, I carry a piece of Houston with me everywhere I go," Yao said in the statement. "I look forward to working with Mayor Parker and the City of Houston to promote Houston around the world and especially in China, where ties with Houston run deep and are expanding every day."