SHANGHAI, July 2 -- Chinese basketball star and Shanghai Sharks owner Yao Ming has been under fire from some former team officials as a veteran player was denied a chance to finish his career in his hometown.
Yao, a former NBA player and a Shanghai native who took over the Sharks in 2009, on Monday refused to give former international guard Liu Wei a one-year contract extension, which dashed the 34-year-old's dream of retiring in Shanghai.
As longtime friends, Yao and Liu had played side by side for both the national team and Shanghai in the Chinese Basketball League before Yao joined the Houston Rockets as the first pick of the 2002 NBA draft.
Yao's decision was considered "heartless" by some former Sharks officials.
"The CBA is far different from the NBA and it can never be," former Shanghai vice general manager Qian Anke wrote on his micro-blog right after the club announced the decision on Monday.
"Twenty years of hard work brought him (Liu Wei) only such a non-negotiable result. All right, from now on you are no more than just a commodity in my eyes. No more personal feelings."
Former team translator Shan Zhenghao joined Yao's critics on Tuesday.
"Since you are so heartless, show us some good outcome while managing in your NBA style after five years and changing so many players," he said in his micro-blog.
This was the second controversy Yao ran into after he turned into the boss of the team.
In 2009, Liu Wei, then at his top form and an absolute leader in Shanghai, asked a salary raise which was initially turned down by Yao's managing team.
Thus, Yao was bombarded as "too much of a businessman and considering too little about his longtime friendship with Liu".
The saga eventually finished with a happy ending under the mediation of Shanghai Sports Bureau who talked the club to agreeing to a salary raise and Liu, inking a five-year deal that expires this summer.
Although Yao received negative feedbacks from former colleagues, the Chinese basketball icon has won a lot of support from basketball fans.
"Any professional club has its own development path and being professional also means fierce competition. You can not bring too much feeling into this," said a Web user with an ID the Masses Have Unlimited Strength.
"The reason why the CBA is not fully professionalized is just because people put feelings first. Professionalization means the strongest survives," said another netizen who named himself as LXD0602
Yao announced his retirement in July 2011 following a trail-blazing career that made him China's best-known athlete and helped spur the game's growth across Asia.