I considered writing three-quarters of a recap to honor Houston’s piss-poor performance in the fourth quarter of last night’s game against Atlanta.
But Houston has to turn right around a play a Chicago Bulls team that has guys that are a lot better than Tim Hardaway Jr. Their names are Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. Or you can get ready to watch Doug McDermott or Jerian Grant go nuclear tonight. Can you tell I’m a little salty?
Anyway, we’re done talking about the Rockets or even the Bulls. Tonight is about Yao Ming, one of the greatest Rockets to put on the uniform and by all accounts one of the best humans on the planet. Tonight the Rockets will retire Yao’s jersey during a halftime ceremony.
Yao was a great ambassador for the city of Houston but more importantly for the nation of China. Not only did his arrival bolster the Rockets, but it created a bridge between the US and China that allowed basketball to flow and increase in (admittedly its already sizable) popularity.
I could wax poetic about Yao for hours (really, I could). But you don’t want to read my opinion. So let’s get some links in here.
- Here’s Jeff van Gundy calling his time coaching Yao as “The Coaching Honor of a Lifetime.”
- The sixth best play of Yao’s career, per this video, is the behind-the-back dribble from Yao that JVG referenced.
- No seriously, go and watch #6 in that video.
- DID YOU SEE THAT SHIT? THIS DUDE IS SEVEN FOOT SIX!
- Here’s an old Grantland article about him.
- Here’s a Yao Ming interview on NPR about his work in attempting to stop the ivory trade.
- Want your heart broken? Watch Yao at his press conference regarding his 2008 injury. The pain in his voice as he talks about the possibility of missing the 2008 Beijing Olympics is heart-wrenching. He knew what he meant to China. And he wanted to be there for them. That’s the kind of person he is.
- He’s also a Special Olympics global ambassador.
One of my favorite stories I tell people is about Yao missing part of training camp because of the Special Olympics. In 2008, the Summer Olympics were to be held in China, but the summer before they were to host the Special Olympics World Games. As a global ambassador for the Special Olympics and as essentially the face of sports in China, Yao was slated to be present for the opening ceremony. The problem? Being in Shanghai for the opening ceremony meant that Yao would miss the first three days of mandatory training camp, including Media Day.
Obviously, Yao Ming was the star attraction of any Rockets Media Day. But to miss those days of camp would incur a fine from the NBA of upwards of $30,000. Yao was distraught about missing camp and never mentioned the fine. I remember once reading or hearing that the NBA promised to donate his fine to the Special Olympics but I cannot find a link to corroborate that so take it with a grain of salt. Still, despite the fine, Yao made the right decision. He was in his hometown of Shanghai when the Special Olympics commenced.
Now watch this man’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement speech.
He was tall, but his career was far too short. He did finally get out of the first round, but got injured in Game 1 against the Lakers. Like the champion he is, he forced his way back onto the court and helped Houston beat the eventual champions on their home floor.
In all honesty, the man was too good for the city of Houston. He was too good for any city. He’s a legend and a champion. He doesn’t need a ring to tell you that.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT.