It was only natural to, upon hearing Yao Ming had received another grim medical report, begin writing obituaries for his basketball career.
Yao isn’t ready for that just yet.
“I haven’t died,” the Houston Rockets’ center was quoted by ESPN. “Right now I’m drinking a beer and eating fried chicken. What were you expecting, a funeral?”
After missing all of last season due to foot surgery, Yao came back this year on a limited-minutes diet. But after just five games (10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg), an ankle injury has kept him out since Nov. 10, and this week it was discovered that he had a stress fracture in the ankle. His season is most likely. Many believe his career is over as well.
The Rockets are expected to announce their plans for Yao next week.
“Right now, I still hope I can come back and play,” Yao said.
As in the case of Greg Oden, I would hope Yao has enough perspective to make the right decision for his long-term health. If basketball is his passion and he gets cleared to play, he should.
But on the other hand, he is 30 years old with a wife and child at home and he has other avenues to pursue outside of playing in the NBA. Yao owns the Shanghai Sharks pro team in China, and certainly has enough money to chase whatever dreams he has outside of basketball. Yao should consider the case of Brad Daugherty, who had to retire from the NBA at 28 years old due to a bad back, and has since made a second career in NASCAR as a team owner and broadcaster. Brad knows he could have pushed and kept trying to play, but he’s happy now and still satisfying his competitive nature.
Yao is also a free agent after this season, so it may not even be his choice. If no team is willing to take a chance on him, he’ll find himself forced out of the NBA.