Wednesday's official retirement of Yao Ming didn't exactly come as a
Shanghai surprise, nor does it really mark the end of any sort of era.
Yet Yao's career will go down in basketball history as a testament to
the enormity of the Chinese market and the tragedy of an athlete's body
Wednesday's official retirement of Yao Ming didn't exactly come as a Shanghai surprise, nor does it really mark the end of any sort of era. Yet Yao's career will go down in basketball history as a testament to the enormity of the Chinese market and the tragedy of an athlete's body betraying them.
As a basketball prototype, he had the body, soft shooting touch and skill set to become one of the best centres ever. Even if he was Shawn Bradley's height, he wasn't Shawn Bradley (although Charles Barkley predicted in 2002 Yao would fail as a pro, saying he would "kiss Kenny Smith's ass" if he scored more than 19 in a game in his rookie season. Barkley lost, and Smith found a compromise:
But similar to Bill Walton before him, a string of debilitating injuries would set in, causing him to miss 250 of a possible 492 games in his last six seasons in the NBA. Despite this, he was a perennial All-Star voting leader thanks mainly to the populace of his homeland. The business of the NBA owes him a debt of gratitude for that alone.
Here's to you, Yao Ming:
Waiting for our 'Miracle?'
Canada's men's national basketball team was at Toronto's Ryerson
University this week, with coach Leo Rautins facing the usual questions
about Matt Bonner's citizenship status (up in the air) and Tristan
Thompson and Cory Joseph's participation in next month's FIBA Americas
Tournament. The tournament starts Aug. 30 in Argentina. Joseph is
expected to be on board but Thompson is not, likely owing to his higher
draft status and the uncertainty surrounding the NBA lockout.
the unusual circumstances, it may be okay to give Thompson a pass for
not playing for his country this time. But back in 2000, a lot of people
gave Jamaal Magloire the benefit of the doubt for not showing any
interest in suiting up in Sydney (he had just been drafted in first
round by the Charlotte Hornets), and we know how things turned out in
the years that followed.
Canada needs to either a) finish in the
top two in Argentina (unlikely) to automatically qualify for the
Olympics in London next year, or b) at least finish in the top five so
they can play in next year's final Olympic qualifier.
debacle at the FIBA World Championships is still fresh in mind
(including losses to hoops powerhouses like Lebanon and New Zealand),
and given Canada's historical penchant for coming up short in non-hockey
international sporting events, it's completely acceptable to be cynical
about this. If anything is different this year, the team is (slightly)
better and more experienced, and (currently) healthy.
as some have pointed out, there's a good chance we will watch the career
of Canada's greatest-ever basketball player end over the next few years
without him suiting up again for his country.
Some blame Steve
Nash for turning his back on the program, but if you side with him, then
you have to consider siding with Magloire's reasons as well (even if
they've never been as well-publicized as Nash's).
The truth is,
the structure of Canada Basketball is fatally infected by both a lack of
funding and political BS from top to bottom, and has been for decades.
In terms of coaching, I personally like Leo Rautins. Should he be
running this team however? No. And if they fail to reach London, whether
Rio in 2016 is their real goal or not, he needs to go. Of course,
the reaction of too many in Canada is "who cares." Let's face it, if
it's not hockey here, it doesn't draw a ton of attention. But keep in
mind for a minute that hockey is more than a sport in Canada, and you
could sell tickets to NHL players mowing grass if given the opportunity.
in terms of a sport alone, having the talent to compete in the planet's
second-most popular game is there (and more is coming). It is a
national disgrace that a country this wealthy and diverse, and with at
least two nets in every single school in the nation has this sort of
trouble supporting basketball. Yes, I know, Canadian soccer has the same
problems. And that's offensive as well. And while I'm on it, it needs
to be said that it might actually behoove us as a sporting nation to try
and also be really good at a sport that is played in more than a
handful of Nordic countries.
One guy I know once derisively said basketball in Canada will always be like hockey in the States.
guess what? That actually ain't bad. Hockey is still a real sport in
certain large U.S. markets and on many college campuses, is played in a
more significant portion of the country than many Canadians think, and
owes one of it's single greatest national sporting moments to hockey.
So when is Canada's Miracle on Ice: Hardwood Edition going to happen?
and Joseph represent a mere tip of the iceberg in terms of talent
coming up the pipeline. We are getting better as a basketball nation,
and it will only continue. Let's just hope Canada Basketball and
Canadians have the sense to do right by it.
John ChickAlmost as cynical as a Toronto sports fan can get, John Chick has been around the NBA and other sports in one capacity or another for a decade, working at outlets such as Metro News Canada, Sun Media and TSN. He blogs on the NBA for CBCSports.ca and wishes Charles Oakley still played. You can follow him on Twitter @roofthatpeach
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