Reebok International has signed a multi-year partnership with basketball phenom Yao Ming, the 7'5″, 23-year-old native of Shanghai, China. Yao's strong performance for the Houston Rockets earned him a starting spot for the Western Conference in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. The signing of Yao reinforces a key strategic priority for Reebok and the National Basketball Association to develop the basketball apparel and footwear market throughout Asia, a region which represents a significant and long-term growth opportunity for both organizations.

In 2001, Reebok and the NBA formed a long-term strategic partnership. Currently, Reebok has the exclusive rights to design, develop, market and sell NBA apparel for 19 of the 29 NBA teams, including the Rockets. Beginning with the 2004-2005 season, Reebok will have the exclusive rights to create on-court apparel for all 30 NBA teams, as the expansion Charlotte Bobcats will join the league in that season. In June 2003, Reebok and the NBA announced a pan-Asian partnership to develop and market NBA apparel and accessories.

“The signing of Yao Ming combined with our exclusive NBA partnership and endorsements with key NBA superstars such as Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, Kenyon Martin and Steve Francis further reinforces Reebok's position as a major player in authentic performance sports around the world,” said Paul Fireman, chairman and CEO, Reebok International. “We now have several extraordinarily powerful assets in global performance basketball. And the addition of Yao gives us incredible traction in China, a critical market with great potential for our brand.”

Under the agreement, Reebok will design, market and sell a Yao Ming signature collection of athletic footwear and apparel. Yao will debut the NBA Fusion shoe on-court on October 30th, Houston's first regular season game of the 2003-2004 NBA season. Yao's official signature footwear and apparel line will be introduced at retail in fall 2004.

Reebok is developing a globally integrated marketing program for Yao, which will include a global print and television advertising campaign, retail presence and grassroots initiatives.

“I am both thrilled and honored to be a member of the Reebok family,” said Yao. “Reebok is a great company with great products. It will be exciting to work side by side with teammate Steve Francis and many other great athletes that I admire. And I look forward to the fun and the challenge of promoting basketball worldwide with a legendary company like Reebok.”

Yao was selected as the #1 overall draft pick in the 2002 NBA draft. Within one year, he became the most successful and influential Chinese basketball player in the history of the NBA. Last season, Yao earned unanimous NBA All-Rookie First Team honors after averaging 13.5 points with 8.2 rebounds and 1.74 blocks in 82 games. Earlier this month, Yao was named MVP of the Asia Basketball Championships after his national China team defeated Korea for the title (112 to 96). Yao's performance was exceptional: 12 for 14 from the field, 6 for 7 from the free throw line, 15 rebounds and 6 assists.

Selected to the Shanghai Youth Team at age 14, Yao has been a leading member of the Chinese National Team for more than five years. Playing against the world's elite while representing China in the 2000 Summer Games, Yao averaged 10.5 points per game with team-leading averages of 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots.