Yao, Olympic stars top Forbes China celebrity list

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 19, 2009 at 4:11 AM EDT

Chinese sports stars have outshone entertainers to top the annual Forbes magazine list of China's most successful celebrities.

Basketballer Yao Ming, superstar centre for the NBA Houston Rockets, topped the list for the sixth consecutive year based on his Olympic performance and lucrative endorsement deals with Visa and McDonald's, Forbes said in its announcement late Wednesday.

Besides leading China's national basketball side to a top eight finish at last year's Beijing Olympics, Yao was the country's flag bearer at the Games.

The annual China celebrity list, which began in 2003, factors in earnings and media appeal through an "exposure index" to decide the nation's most successful stars.

Actress Zhang Ziyi was the only non-Olympian to make the list's top five, coming in behind Yao based on her recent role in the Chen Kaige film "Forever Enthralled".

Zhang's romance with Israeli media mogul Vivi Nevo, documented with paparazzi photos in the popular press, helped her move up from last year's fifth place, Forbes said.

Yao's Olympic teammate Yi Jianlian, who plays for the NBA New Jersey Nets, moved up one place from last year to number three, while Olympic gold medal-winning women's diver Guo Jingjing was fourth, it said.

Guo's high-profile romance with the grandson of late Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok and her deals with Coca-Cola and Avon pushed her up from 24th last year.

Former world record holder in the 110 metre hurdles Liu Xiang dropped from two to five following his spectacular withdrawal from an Olympic preliminary race.

Liu, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, has retained his endorsements with Nike and Coca-Cola and recent surgery has kept him in the news, but his star power is waning due to his shocking Olympics failure, Forbes said.

Movie stars rounded out the top 10 with action star Jet Li at six followed by actresses Zhao Wei, Fan Bingbing, Zhou Xun and Li Bingbing.




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