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So, this might not directly affect us as Celtics fans, but anytime someone of Yao Ming’s stature looks like he could be leaving the NBA, it causes ripples. The giant Chinese superstar suffered a hairline fracture of one of the bones in his foot during a playoff loss against the Lakers in Houston. Initial reports indicated that he’d be unable to play for eight to 12 weeks. Since nobody really gave the Rockets much of a shot at getting past Los Angeles anyway, it was thought to be a big deal, but nothing too grave.
New details have emerged, however. The Rockets announced last week that he would be consulting with doctors to “map out a new course of treatment,” according to ESPN.com. It is thought that Yao could miss at least half of next season, and with fellow Houston cornerstone Trace McGrady set to miss a similar amount of playing time, one of the tougher teams in the Western Conference is in real trouble. Worse, Rockets team doctor Tom Clanton told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that the center’s injury “could be career-threatening.”
What’s it all mean to a Celtics fan, anyway? Well, for one thing, this further damages the hopes of a team to compete with Kobe and the gang in LA, which I don’t need to tell anybody is sad news. But Yao’s possible retirement through injury is bad for the game as a whole.
To a billion Chinese people, Yao Ming is more or less the personification of the game of basketball. To a sport whose biggest stars all too frequently prove themselves to be pretty awful people, Yao offered a vision of a mega-star with rare decency and humanity. A lot of what’s right in the NBA right now is embodied, or at least exemplified, by the classy giant from Shanghai. And much of basketball’s half-realized globalization can be chalked up to foreign stars like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Hedo Turkoglu, Pau Gasol, and the biggest of them all, Yao Ming.
In other words, Yao is a great player and a nice guy. The NBA, and the sports world in general, would be poorer for his absence. Here’s hoping you get well, big guy. We in Boston will look forward to you beating up on the Lakers again soon!