Yao Ming, an NBA great and future Hall of Famer, retired yesterday after being slowed the last few seasons by leg injuries. Instead of dwelling on the unfortunately circumstances that led to the end of his groundbreaking career, we must honor everything Yao meant to the game.
First and foremost, Yao was an ambassador to the game and a role model for millions of children. Since he entered the league in 2002, the NBA game has gone global. Even though China has not become a world basketball powerhouse in the last decade, basketball has become a part of China’s fiber. NBA merchandise is prevalent through the most populated nation in the world and Chinese fans epitomize the etymology of the word “fan”—they are fanatic about basketball. In 2010, when Yao was only able to play in five games, his jersey was not even one of the top ten jerseys sold in his home country. Ahead of him were ten superstars: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Ray Allen, and Kevin Durant (link). Without Yao, and his commitment to the game, children around the world (and China in particular) would not have basketball in their blood.
We also need to remember Yao the player. An eight time all-star, Yao was a dominant post man with the touch of a small forward. He could single-handedly take over a game by punishing a team down low, at the line, or from 18 feet out. As a Blazers fan, we need to remember the valuable lessons Yao and the Rockets taught us in our first trip back to the playoffs in five years. Yao taught us about poise. He taught us about making big shots under tremendous pressure. He taught us how to be a classy winner.
Yao Ming, Blazers nation thanks you for everything you have done for the league and we wish you luck with all your future endeavors.