Shanghai: It`s back to the books for retired Chinese basketball star Yao Ming.
The former Houston Rockets center and No. 1 draft pick in the 2002 NBA draft started classes this week at Jiatong University, one of the top schools in his hometown of Shanghai, a leading China daily reported on Tuesday.
"The teacher showed me some mercy and did not leave me any homework," Yao joked to reporters after his first day of courses at the university`s Antai College of Economics and Management.
Yao said the first order of business was assessing "how weak my foundation is" and working with instructors on a tailored course of study.
Yao, who retired four months ago because of chronic injuries to his left foot, is taking classes in mathematics, English and modern Chinese history —a subject he enjoyed in high school.
He hopes to apply the knowledge to his business and public service ventures, which range from ownership of his hometown Shanghai Sharks professional basketball team to overseeing a multimillion-dollar charitable foundation.
Yao, 31, remains one of the most popular celebrities in China. Besides being named to eight NBA All-Star teams, he played in three Olympics and carried the Chinese flag during the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The 7-foot-6 (2.29-meter) center expanded the NBA`s influence into the world`s most populous country, creating lucrative merchandise sales for the league and TV ratings that skyrocketed whenever the Rockets played.