Yao Ming’s place among the sport’s greatest big men of all time may be behind names like Shaquille O’ Neal, and Tim Duncan, but his impact on the sport of basketball is untouchable. While his future seems bleak with the hairline fracture in his left foot, he will never be forgotten. All across the world the realization that Yao Ming may never play basketball again are real. From the time he was drafted to the Rockets in 2002 he has felt not only the pressure from the Rockets and the NBA but the hopes and dreams of a people and a country.
Yao Ming coming into the NBA was a dream for not only David Stern but all basketball fans around the world. David Stern now had a face to put on his international movement, a player whose character was as high as his talent level. Unlike other international players Yao embraced the opportunity and hired personal English teachers and grew as an individual and a basketball player. David Stern and china saw him more as an object than as a human, running him to the ground and ultimately tossing him aside. From the time he started playing basketball China played him too many summers, and the Rockets played him too many minutes. He was the most popular player in the world, even shattering all star vote records.
As far as the global game goes Yao Ming is the most important player since Michael Jordan. He’s the reason why China has fallen in love with the NBA, the reason why millions watch his every move. The NBA outreach to China has opened new doors that were once unimaginable. Yao Ming is the reason why Kobe Bryant and our NBA stars are treated like movie stars in the Beijing Olympics.
From the time he arrived into the NBA he was criticized and attacked not only as a player but as a person. Perhaps it was because in a sport dominated by Americans, no one believed that an Asian could come in and become a star. He didn’t play like your typical 7 footer, after all he had a jump shot, and we can all remember those videos of Yao Ming shooting 3 pointers in China. From day one the attacks came and sometimes they pushed beyond just the basketball court and were sometimes needlessly personal. Perhaps there has never been an athlete that has had the burden that Yao Ming carried on a regular basis. From carrying the pride of 1/3 of the world on his shoulders, to trying to carry the Rockets to a championship he never complained. He gained the respect of his peers in the NBA he worked relentlessly and became an unstoppable force on and off the basketball court.
The Rockets GM is much too good to allow his team to just bottom out. They have already started to rebuild, sadly without the expectation that yao will be around, but thats what they have to do. They will make the proper moves to position themselves in the future, and we will always be left with the what if questions about Yao. what if he could have stayed healthy, would he have been one of the best centers of all time, what records would he have shattered? Now sadly enough those questions may never have any answers to them, but we have all sat back and enjoyed watching Yao play.
Basketball and the NBA in particular is full of folk heroes and bigger than life characters that never lived up to their potential. But make no mistake about it Yao Ming has lived up to his destiny and has lived up to his potential. As far as the global game goes, no player has meant more to the game of basketball and perhaps no other player has given so much to the game of basketball. There are players with MVP trophies, and multiple NBA championships that will never leave the legacy that Yao Ming will leave. Yao Ming will probably be gone for this year, maybe for longer, and maybe for good, but make no mistake about it his legacy will be felt for generations. As a player, as a fan I can speak for all fans around the world when I say thank you Yao.