BEIJING (Reuters) – Denial, anxiety and finger-pointing are
some of China’s reactions to news the country’s towering
basketball icon Yao Ming may miss this year’s World
Championships through injury.
The Houston Rockets’ announcement of a possible six-month
recuperation period for Yao’s broken foot — sustained during
an NBA match on Monday — was greeted with skepticism by
China’s top basketball administration.
Perhaps the reporters who covered the news had misheard, Hu
Jia, deputy director of National Basketball Management Center,
suggested in a local newspaper.
Yao’s official cheer squad, Team Yao, was also in denial.
“When I heard this news, I was very surprised,” said member
Zhang Mingji. “I wondered whether the American media had got it
As China’s national team prepares for September’s World
Championships in Tokyo, Yao’s left foot — and the doctors that
treat it — will be under fierce scrutiny from China’s legion
of sport fans.
“It is our national team that has been injured!” cried one
distressed fan in an Internet chat room.
Yao’s early exit from the NBA season caps off the Rockets’
injury-plagued year — but few Chinese fans are shedding tears.
Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy has been singled out for
special online grilling, labeled “good for nothing” and blamed
for playing Yao Ming at the tail-end of a fruitless season.
“(Van Gundy) disabled Yao Ming! He’s more vicious than a
capitalist!” stormed one disappointed fan.
“The Rockets are already out of the play-offs… yet Yao
still plays… Firmly support (Van Gundy’s) sacking!”
The 7-foot-6 Yao, who previously missed 21 games through a
toe infection, was more upbeat regarding surgery and a long
“After my last post-surgery comeback, I made 20 (points)
and 10 (rebounds),” Yao told a local newspaper. “Maybe it’s the
best thing for me and when I come back I’ll be stronger.”
With Yao’s injury, all three Chinese players with NBA
experience — dubbed China’s “Great Wall” — have question
marks over their fitness leading up to the World Championships.
Former San Antonio Spurs player Menk Bateer is undergoing
treatment in Houston for injuries sustained playing for Beijing
Ducks in China’s top league, whilst former Miami Heat center
Wang Zhizhi has not played professionally in over six months.
Yao had been averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds for
the Rockets this season, but even China’s most die-hard fans
are reluctant to rush him back into the national team before he
“Whatever the situation, the main thing is getting the
injury right,” said Team Yao cheerleader Zhang. “Although the
World Championships are important, they are not as important as