Yao Ming tops celebrity list as Olympic stars shine

Thu Mar 19, 2009 6:35am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - NBA star Yao Ming led a Chinese celebrity list for the sixth straight year with Beijing Olympics stars taking four of the top five spots.

The Houston Rockets center topped the Forbes China list with the most media exposure and the highest pre-tax annual income of 357 million yuan ($52 million), the China Daily said.

A total of 23 sports stars, most of whom had shined in the August Olympics, made it into the top 100.

The host nation excelled at the Games, winning 51 gold medals to leapfrog the United States (36 golds) and top the medals table for the first time.

Actress Zhang Ziyi, the only non-sports celebrity in the top five, came in at number two. Yao's national teammate, New Jersey Nets forward Yi Jianlian, came in at number three, followed by "Diving Diva" Guo Jingjing.

Hurdler Liu Xiang dropped from second to fifth after his dramatic withdrawal from the Games, walking away from the starting blocks injured as he was about to defend his 110 m title.

(Reporting by Yu Le; Editing by Nick Macfie)

<p>Houston Rockets Yao Ming of China reacts while playing against the Chicago Bulls during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Chicago, February 28, 2009. REUTERS/John Gress</p>