It is sad that it has come to this, a great competitor and iconic figure of the NBA betrayed by his body once again. I believe that if it is medically possible for Yao to come back, he will come back. I don't think he wants to leave the game like this.
I also think that if it is possible for Yao to come back he will remain a Rocket, though at much lower dollars. While others were upset with sprained ankles and bone bruises this season, I wasn't. This injury is much different, and not simply because it is season-ending (again). The type of injury, and its location are at best dispiriting, and may well signal the end of Yao's NBA career.
It makes me wonder how much pain Yao has endured over the years. I've had stress fractures myself, and ran for miles, and for weeks on them, but the pain was intense, and I wonder how much Yao has endured just to play.
If there is any blame to be placed, it is perhaps on Yao's seemingly never ending commitment to the Chinese National Team. But what could he have done? China was hosting the Olympics, a first for the proud fledgling economic superpower. Yao is the most important, and best, international athlete China has ever produced. Gymnasts, skaters and whatnot are all well and good, but basketball is the second most popular international sport. The gap in recognition and stature is huge. Was he really given a choice before the Beijing Games? I doubt it.
Yao and McGrady will live in our memories as icons whose talent, game and heart were never matched by their durability. It's hard to find stars. Yao is not replaced. Someone will play center for the Rockets, and one day we'll have a great center again, but just as no center will ever be Hakeem, no center will ever be Yao Ming.
Get well Yao, and if you can't be injury free in the NBA, I hope you can be pain-free in the rest of your life.