As graduate school has taken away a good chunk of my life, I've had a hard time being able to even comment on a lot of posts these days, let alone write my own. However, with yesterday's news, the latest great Houston Rockets center has decided to hang up his shoes and ride off into the sunset. Yao Ming, you were a pleasure to watch: a gentle giant who could wrench it up a few notches when the time was necessary. However, you were done in by your own anatomy, injuries derailed an amazing career that could have been better.
I still believe that had Yao Ming not gotten hurt against the Lakers, World B. Free (or whatever Ron Artest wants to be known as) and company would have beaten LA in 6 and then thrashed both Denver and Orlando on their way to an NBA title that would have been a similar triumph to that of what Dallas did this year to the Super Best Friends of Miami.
At his best, Yao was THE Elite center in the NBA. How do I know? Look at him going head-to-head with Dwight Howard. He made Howard his bitch every time they played, as Superman didn't have any idea how to deal with the Great Wall. Yao was that good guys. Yeah, he was slow. Yeah he wasn't an elite defender. Yeah, teams could beat him up on the pick and roll. Well guess what, so was Shaq and everyone still says he was dominant.
Yao was just like that too.
Had Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady been given a chance to play together healthy, this would have been the team of the late 2000's, not the Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol led bunch in Los Angeles. Its a shame too, about how much injuries have hurt guys. I loved McGrady till he quit on the team. Yao didn't quit on the Rockets: his body, which had been abused by the Chinese Basketball Association and the NBA just said I couldn't go further.
How many of you guys can say you were there at Compaq Center for Yao Ming's first game? I saw him first play against a Vince Carter-led Toronto Raptors team. He didn't look amazing, but he played a solid game, getting about 10 points while Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley led the way. He wasn't starting yet (big Kelvin Cato was) but it was only a matter of time before the Great Wall would make his mark. Yao played well, and I can remember leaving the game feeling pleased about the state of the Rockets.
With this team we had some pretty good highs (13pts in 35 seconds, the first round playoff win of 09, the Mothers Day Miracle) and some terrible lows (2005-06 and the injury at the end of Game 3 against the Lakers. Remember 2006-07 when Yao was mentioned as an MVP candidate before breaking his left knee? Remember the 22-game winning streak season when Yao had to go down, but still cheered this team on? We had some great times with him.
Along with the last "Rocket" mission, the latest "Rocket" center has gone down. Yao, as Denzel Washington said in Remember the Titans: "You're a Hall-of-Famer in my book."