Maybe Nobody Needs Blame for Yao Ming's Injury

Jonathan Feigen has a very interesting story in the Houston Chronicle about Yao Ming's injury, and his dueling commitments to the NBA and the Chinese National Team.

Here are some favorire parts:

  • There was conjecture, equally unfounded, that he was overburdened by his duties to the Chinese national team. But he took most of June off for his individual training. He spent much of July and August on his wedding and honeymoon. He played in a few exhibitions, but with no more demands than the average player at Fonde Rec Center. ... He does fly coach, and when he is with the national team he stays in relatively Spartan accommodations. He did not break his foot in February because he failed to stay at the Ritz on a road trip in September.

  • "If there is anyone dedicated to his team in the entire league, it is Yao Ming," teammate Shane Battier said. "Anyone that doubts that needs psychiatric help. But especially these Olympics, with the magnitude of the Olympics on a global scale to showcase China as an international power, with him as the centerpiece -- it's incredibly important."

  • "He's a player that is shared among the Rockets, the city of Houston, the NBA and China," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "We're absolutely OK with that. It's Yao. Yao Ming's Chinese heritage is so important to him. Him not playing, not representing his country in China would be like not playing basketball at all. It's who he is." The Rockets don't merely accept that Yao plays for China. "We love it," [Rockets CEO Tad] Brown said. "The things he embraces so dearly, we embrace. He is a man of honor, nobility, charity and humility. You look for more people like that."

I'm sure there is a lot more to the story. The Rockets make a ton of money from China, and if a thousand news articles are to believed, rule number one of Chinese-friendly business practices is "thou shalt not humiliate thine Chinese business partners in the media."

So, there would be pressure to say everything was hunky dory even if it wasn't.

But whether everyone involved is motivated by a love of Yao Ming, a love of money, or both, is really not my issue. Either way they're motivated to do the painstaking work of cooperating on a big project across the cultural divide. If they say it's going great, if Yao Ming is happy, and if there isn't any evidence of one side or the other doing anything that's bad for Yao's health, well then I'm sure ready to take the Rockets at their word that everything is going well.