Houston Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander said “sometime probably, yes” when asked if the Rockets would be retiring Yao Ming’s No. 11 jersey. While that is an affirmation, it doesn’t give us any kind of indication as to when this will happen. Yao is likely an NBA Hall of Famer, too, due to his global impact and great yet short-lived career.
Yao left the basketball world all too soon, but giants generally don’t last that long. Though Yao was exceptionally coordinated and athletic for a giant, he still had giantism, and the effects on the bones in giants don’t lend themselves towards having long NBA careers. Yao will still be able to walk and enjoy the remainder of his life. Had he tried to play through pain, he might have permanently damaged his gait.
It’s sad to see Yao retire maybe three to five seasons before we had hoped he would, but it shouldn’t be surprising. Greg Oden is having similar problems, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas was the exception to the rule, because usually when big men start having problems with their joints and/or bones, they don’t recover. All of these big men placed extraordinary pressure on their joints to carry their enormous frames, and the human body has its limitations.