The Bittersweet Retirement of Yao Ming

Yao Ming’s pending retirement is a touchy subject here in Houston.  Most Houstonians less the Rocket front office were readily prepared as the writing had been on the wall for a while now.  Either way, Yao’s career is one that should be appreciated not only here in Houston but from NBA fans across the country.

After nine seasons and a host of foot injuries the Great Wall has finally crumbled.  Although devoid of a championship or even a serious run at one, Yao’s career as a Rocket and NBA player was a success.  Sure he missed a significant amount of games, but when healthy there was not a better center in the league.  Slow your roll, Dwight Howard fans…when Yao was healthy it wasn’t even close between the two.And to think that there were once doubters of the gentle giant that were forced to kiss his an ass once Yao showed he had the game to match the hype.

Yao is one of four players that it can be said has had a global effect on the game with the other three being Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Lebron James.  Yao’s worldwide adoration, specifically in his home country of China has ensured that the NBA will never have to worry about any other American origin-ed sport challenging it’s popularity title any time soon.  It even sent him to an all star game or two that he shouldn’t have been to.

For the Houston Rockets, Yao’s retirement marks the end of an era yet it frees them to begin anew.  Waiting on Yao to fully recover year after year was taxing on the city and the franchise.  Now the Rockets are free to bring in a new face of the franchise that they can build around in anticipation of becoming a contender again.  Coincidentally, Yao’s retirement comes upon the heels of a draft that was dominated by foreigners.  Maybe Jan Vesaly, or Jonas Valanciunas, or Ricky Rubio will carry the international torch that Yao commandeered upon his arrival to America.  Maybe Dirk Nowitzki rides the wave of momentum from his NBA Finals performance.

Either way, it is a time of opportunity for the Houston Rockets as well as the NBA.  But while identifying who’s next, both the Rockets and NBA should lament Yao’s calling it a career.