Yao Ming has decided to retire from the NBA after years of the chronic foot troubles that go along with being seven feet and six inches tall.
Yao was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Entry draft and entered the league with the weight of a nation on his back. He handled the pressure of being the greatest Chinese player to ever play in the NBA with ease; unfortunately his body couldn’t handle the pressures of his gigantic frame.
Unlike other Giants such as George Muresan, Manute Bol or Shawn Bradley, Yao was athletic, he could run the floor and he was a legitimate basketball player. He led the Rockets in free throw percentage each year he was with this team. It’s an amazing feat considering most big men struggle at the line.
While never reaching his true potential in the US, Yao’s influence on the game goes beyond his numbers on the court. His move to North America turned the world’s most populous nation into NBA fans.
Yao was routinely voted to start for the Western Conference at the NBA’s All-Star game regardless of his injury status or how well he was playing. His Chinese fans never stopped supporting their national icon.
Now that the NBA players have been locked out, Kobe Bryant and his management agency are in talks to do a barnstorming tour of China. The tour will feature teams of NBA stars playing exhibition games in front of the fervent Chinese fans.
You’d have to think that these tours would be far less lucrative if Yao hadn’t built a bridge between the NBA and China.