Quantcast 2011 NBA News: Yao Ming Retires

 

Injuries force Yao Ming into retirement

 

The NBA’s true center population has taken another hit almost two months after Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement in early June.

Yao Ming, once a nearly unstoppable post player with the Houston Rockets, has announced his retirement from basketball. Numerous injuries to his lower body derailed the tail end of his career as he struggled to recover time and again.

His latest injury, suffered in December 2010, proved to be the final straw for Yao. Much like many other exceptionally large players in the past (Gheorghe Muresan, Zydrunas Ilgauskas), Yao’s 7-6 frame just could not take the constant pounding incurred over years of competing in the NBA and for the Chinese National Team.

Drafted No. 1 overall in 2002 by Houston, Yao finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Amar’e Stoudemire. He was also voted as an All-Star starter in his rookie season — the first of eight occurrences in his career.

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In eight seasons in the NBA (he sat out the entire 2009-10 season), Yao averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He was also named to the All-NBA Second Team twice and All-NBA Third Team three times.

But Yao will most likely be remembered as just the latest player who flirted with greatness before chronic injuries caught up with him. Just as players like Grant Hill and Anfernee Hardaway had injuries mar Hall-of-Fame worthy careers, so too did Yao. From 2005-06 to 2007-08, Yao managed to average 23 points and 10.2 rebounds even while battling through various injuries that limited him to just 160 total games over that span. He bounced back in the 2008-09 season, playing in 77 games before being diagnosed with a sprained left ankle and a hairline fracture in his left foot during the playoffs. The injury eventually cost him the 2009-10 season, and he played just five games during the 2010-11 campaign before being shut down.

Yao was a tireless worker, striving to overcome stamina concerns early in his career and then persevering through multiple rehabs at the end of it. But through it all, he still managed to stay upbeat, and that work ethic and friendly disposition won him many fans throughout the league and across nations.

He routinely led all All-Star vote getters thanks to his huge following in China, and he is widely regarded as the player who opened up the Chinese market to the NBA. Now the NBA and the sport of basketball enjoy a large following in the country, and Chinese shoe companies like PEAK, Li Ning, and ANTA are thriving in a market once dominated solely by American companies like Nike, adidas, Converse and Reebok.

 


Questions started to swirl about whether Chinese fans would continue to back the NBA once Yao’s retirement became a topic of speculation in early July, but considering that Chinese fans continued to support the NBA despite Yao playing just five games over two seasons, those concerns sound more hyperbolic than realistic.

His immediate future appears to hold continued rehab to return to health as he embarks on a new phase of his life. He will likely be more involved with the Shanghai Sharks — the Chinese basketball team he owns — as well as continue to be an ambassador for the NBA in China.

Yao may never have won an NBA championship, and his odds of being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as an NBA player are long. However, few players in the history of basketball have done more for the globalization of the sport, and that may just end up being Yao’s greatest legacy.

 

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By: Eric Lorenz
ProBasketball-fans.com Staff Writer


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