Zai Jian, Yao! (Yao Ming’s NBA Retirement)

Father time is undefeated and gravity always wins. Just ask Yao Ming’s legs, knees, feet and ankles. After two injury-plagued seasons in which the Chinese All-star Center played only 5 games, and underwent multiple leg and foot surgeries, Yao Ming is finally calling it quits, and is reportedly retiring from the NBA.

While his status as a Hall-Of-Famer remains up in the air (we aren’t talking about the other recently retired 7 footer with more nicknames than P-Diddy ), his legacy on the sport will be a lasting one. This, in part, is due to his role as the only Chinese superstar basketball player to have great success in the NBA.

Chinese people absolutely LOVE the gawky giant and see him as a national treasure, bringing pride to a nation averaging 5 foot 4. CCTV9 (China’s sports Channel) always shows Houston Rockets games, even the past two years when Yao Ming was sidelined. For the past two years, Yao Ming has received a record number of All-Star votes from mainland China, when unable to play. When I asked Chinese fans why they’d vote for someone who can’t play, almost every response was “because he’s the best”. Talk about towing a party line.

Basketball in China is still budding, but the NBA is watched with fervor and excitement. Well, that was until Yao announced his NBA retirement.

With the NBA lockout an almost certainty, and Yao fading off into the distance, many are worried about the impact Yao’s retirement will have on Chinese NBA viewership and the popularity of the sport in general. China’s online web community (called netizens) overwhelmingly feel that the NBA has lost its appeal without a Chinese superstar repping the mainland (I will admit, he was a monster in the early 2000s).

While this nationalistic sentiment borders on the absurd and somewhat racist, many feel that China needs another superstar basketball player that young Chinese boys can look up to as a role model. Yi Jianlian is unfortunately not that player, so China get going on another government issued superstar. I bet you could have a Chinese “Rondo” in a couple of years. Hell just get someone so Charles Barkley will lose another bet and have to kiss the ass of a donkey again:

Oh Chuck, you so crazy. When are you going to get your own show with Shaq by the way? Shaq vs. Barkley: Country Kitchen Buffett Eat-Off anyone?

In the meantime, thanks for bringing basketball to the mainland, Yao Ming. Your presence on the court (and sidelines) will be sorely missed. 再见, 姚明!