2002 marked the birth of Amare Stoudemire, that year's top rookie. But before the Suns big man came up of the ranks, the highly anticipated arrival of that year's draft top pick pulled every attention there is from Houston to China. For the first time, a recognizable Asian stepped his large snickers on the wooden floor. I'm not talking about Wang Zhi Zhi. 7'6 Yao Ming, the stellar center out of Shanghai took his talents from the CBA into the NBA and made the Houston Rockets look like another contender.
In the middle of the past decade, Yao Ming has been the root and the trunk of the entire Houston Rockets team. He carried them, along side with the great Tracy McGrady, to consecutive playoff appearance which all ended crumbling down their knees. Primarily, because of Yao, the Rockets resurfaced for the first time since Clyde Drexler joined Hakeem Olajuwon in delivering a championship to Houston.
Because of consistent frustrations out of the offseason, many consider the Rockets as a young and growing team whose time may come in the latter part of the decade. Along side their promises, McGrady and Yao has carried the team in B+ seasons. Back then, their feet still contend and are still strong enough to carry the heroes carrying their team.
But in 2007, those strong feet came crumbling down. T-Mac missed many games that could save them to the playoffs and Yao often finds himself in a suit cheering for Chuck Hayes to get back on defense. The promise of another Houston championship dusked that day.
In 2009, the worst took its toll. A hairline fracture prevented Yao from playing for the entire season. That pretty much began Yao's end in the league. Last season, the management gave him 24 minute playing time every other night. Their main focus is to keep Yao healthy. But the giant feet may have fought its final battle. Its strength faded away leaving the foundation of the Houston Rockets decide to announce his early exit from the league last July 8. After 9 seasons of becoming an 8 time all star, and 2 time all NBA second team, Yao Ming emphasized that the Great Wall Of China has an endpoint.
In a matter of 9 years, Yao Ming served as an ambassador for the sport in his home country. He connected the US to China and other parts of Asia. In those 9 years, not only did Yao grabbed tremendous amounts of rebounds, he, most especially, grabbed millions of hearts for being so down to earth... at 7'6.