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Wednesday August 17, 2011 1:09 PM

Letters To Yao: Fan Edition


The fans pay homage to the extraordinary career and impact of Yao Ming

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Last week we gave fans an opportunity to write in to Rockets.com and follow the franchise's lead by offering them the chance to share their favorite Yao Ming memories and to thank him for everything he's meant to both the team and the basketball world at large. Not surprisingly, fans from around the globe stepped up in a big way, expressing their heartfelt feelings of gratitude and respect to a living legend. What follows is just a small sampling of the response we received.

Dear Yao:

As Club Season Ticket holders, my wife Sandy and I sat a few rows behind your family for many years and always marveled at the respect they showed for the game. We honor you and your wife and your daughter and your parents and we are thankful that we were able to see your career and your basketball and individual and team skills and your humanity up close and personal. We will always cherish the photograph you took with Sandy at the 2008 Houston Rockets Holiday Party. You have left the game in much better shape than it was before you arrived as the 1st selection in the NBA Draft.

Best regards and stay well,

Dr. & Mrs. Neal & Sandy Bernstein

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Dear Yao,

I had lost interest in the NBA before the Rockets drafted you. It felt like all the old school players were retiring and the game was full of a bunch of showboats that cared about getting on SportsCenter rather than contributing to help their team win.

I was intrigued when the Rockets drafted you and my dad and I became instant fans of yours. We loved the way you brought 100 percent every night. It was a pleasure watching you mature in the league. We loved watching you grow and go head-to-head with stars like Shaq. On most nights, you owned them and it was awesome to watch. I feel honored that I got to witness firsthand you growing from a skinny young kid to an intimidating center that could take over the game.

I’ll never forget the scene from the tunnel during the Lakers playoff game when you refused to go the training room. Most other athletes in this time would use that as an excuse and leave the game. You were often tagged with the “soft” player label because you weren’t as boisterous or flamboyant as a lot of the flashy players in the league, but seeing that scene in the tunnel reinforced the fact that you gave everything you had to help the Rockets win.

When I heard you were retiring, I was sad. It was selfish, but I didn’t want to think about going to Rockets games and not seeing you play anymore. I even thought about canceling my tickets. But, I knew that you exhausted every possibly about making a comeback before you decided to retire and I admire you for making that decision.

I wish you all the best in the future. I believe you have a wonderful future ahead of you and your time with the NBA was a chapter in what will be a very interesting and fulfilling life for you and your family.

Best Wishes,

Allison Wollam

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Dear Yao,

The Rockets, in a sense, have been spoiled by having great “big men” on our team. We had Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and then you. Needless to say, you are in elite company. You were my favorite player on the team during your time here. You had both power and finesse and combined the two perfectly. I loved the way your style of play was so much like Hakeem’s.

When I watched the Rockets on TV, I would smile every time I heard commentator Bill Worrell say, “Yao Ming on the baseline with the Shanghai shake!” Early in your career, people doubted you, but I, like many other fans, knew it wouldn’t take you long to silence all the critics. And silence them you did! Your rookie year in 2002, people said all kinds of negative things. By 2004, however, just two years later, you were a dominant force to be reckoned with. You carried yourself with dignity and class both on and off the court.

My favorite “Yao Ming moment” was in 2009, in the second round of the playoffs against the Lakers. You were injured in one game, and trainer Keith Jones tried to take you back to the locker room, but you knew your team needed you and you wanted to be out there. You stretched out your legs, and a few minutes later you were back on the court. Unfortunately, you got hurt again after that, but the team, fired up by your example, took the Lakers all the way to game seven. What I remember most was that even though we lost that series, we were the only team that year that took the Lakers all the way. No one else did that except us. That is the ultimate example of who the Houston Rockets are — we never quit, we never die, and we keep on fighting as long as we have a chance.

This past season, we won 15 of our last 20 games to end the year, and no one else did that. Your leadership and work ethic helped define our team, and it will be hard to fill your shoes. With all that you did to help our team, I’m surprised you only played nine years—that’s almost too short for someone with your talent. I will miss watching you play, and the team won’t be the same without you. Having said that, we have a team with a lot of potential, and I hope that every player will keep you in mind in be inspired by your example to finish what you started.

Thank you, Yao, for everything.

—Kevin G.
HUGE Rockets fan!!

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Dear Yao

You have been my hero since I started supporting the Rockets.

Six or seven years ago, I played one videogame of basketball, and then I chose the Rockets as my team because I like their logo and red-silver jersey. Then one player in that team really impressed me. He made all the shots, protected rim every time, and dominated on the boards. His name was Yao Ming, and that's the start of my supporting of you and the Rockets team.

You have left lots of memories on Toyota Center. Among those great memories, I especially loved the moment that we beat the Trailblazers in the 2009 NBA playoffs. I remember that you showed dominant performances in that series. Clearly that achievement was made by everyone on the roster, but it's also clear that you (deserve) the biggest prize because that's your team, you were the heart of the team.

As I am a Japanese, it's great to see that Asian player made a big impact in NBA. Every time you played hard, I was encouraged.

I really miss you, Yao. I can't believe that you are no longer in the Rockets' red jersey. But I believe that your heart will be the Rockets' red forever. I will keep on cheering you up for my lifetime.

Tons of thanks for your being a Rocket.

Best regards:

Koji Miyazaki

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Dear Yao,

Thank you so much for being with the Houston Rockets these past couple of years. You’ve inspired not only the Rockets but the whole (basketball world). I myself was inspired by you. You were the reason why I started to watch the NBA and you got me hooked. We will definitely miss you but your legacy remains the same. Your dedication, persistence, and passion to Houston Rockets Basketball is worth way more than an NBA championship. We will always remember your work right here in Houston and what’ve you done to influence so many Asian Americans and foreigners to perhaps one day reach your level and perform just like you did.

Your image of the NBA in China was really something special, Not that many people have billions of fans. There will never ever be a NBA player like you to be honest. I mean a 7-6 center with great skill that has perfect shooting touch and sweet free throw shooting is pretty hard to find these days. Also I really love the way you stayed in Houston after all these years when you probably could have joined a different NBA team, it shows how much you were dedicated to Rockets fans and we simply have a deep respect for you. You will always be my number one NBA player.

The best part of your career to me would be the 2008-2009 NBA playoffs because you showed your true strength and moved to the second round of the playoffs. I guarantee that if you didn’t get that foot injury you would’ve moved on to the semifinals and destroyed the Nuggets and then moving on to the finals to face the Orlando Magic. That my friend would’ve been outrageously epic. Anyways thanks again for supporting the Rockets all the way and have a great retirement because you deserved it.

From a Houston Rocket’s fan,

Michael

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Dear Yao,

My childhood and adolescence was without video games, Disneyland, and branding sports shoes, but not without a room without your posters, any weekend without your games, happiness when you helped Houston defeat Portland, and morose when you lied on the floor with agony.

You are one of the most important motivations of my life. You made me know that I cannot be as tall as you, but I can have a pair of soft hand as you; You told me that I cannot prevent accidents in life, but I can hold faith like you, instead of being a coward, fighting for my destiny. You taught me that talent is useless without hard-working attitude, and hard-working attitude only makes sense with persistence. You made me brave, and helped me built my confidence to walk on this earth. Here I want to say, Yao, thank you, for everything.

It is a sad day for everyone who loves basketball because of your retirement. However, as Gandalf said in the Lord of the Rings, death is just another path, that we all have to take. Retirement does not make your influence vanished. It is just another stage of life, which makes you a complete man. Your spirits will not be locked in your legendary decade in Rockets, but keeping spreading through the future, and inspiring more young man like me.

So long my friend, wish you and your family all the best in the future.

Chewie - Your biggest fan

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Dear Yao,

I can still remember the first day we drafted you! I was so happy we had someone to fill #34 shoes! I’m really sad as I write this letter to you. You have filled my mind with so many memories and good times! I remember when I went to buy your Jersey and thought wow, I can’t wait to wear it to the next game!! You truly are a great man, Yao! Thanks for being part of all of our lives!

All the best,

Mike Roberts

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Dear Yao Ming,

Thank-you so much for everything that you have done. You helped the Rockets make it to the playoffs. You were a great center and a great All-Star player as well. You will be deeply missed. Yao you have left us with a legacy that will never be forgotten. Good luck to you in everything that you do.

Sincerely,

Farah Usmani ~ Number one Rockets fan

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Hey Yao,

I just wanted to say, you are the best centre anyone could ever think of. I love how you play and you are the reason why I wanted to play basketball. You have done your country proud and I am pretty sure you have done the Rockets Proud as well. You are my absolute basketball hero and I want to be just like you. It was heart breaking when I heard of your injury and I waited and waited but you never went on court again, that was one of the hardest thing I had to go through life with, my basketball hero isn't playing for my favourite team. Then came the announcement of your retirement, I was as sad as anyone could get, you are just that important to me. And you also do Asians proud and give Asians like me hope that one day WE could make the big times as well! All I can say is, good luck with your future and hopefully you have a safe and happy life!

Go Rockets!!!! YOU ARE THE BEST YAO!!!!

From,

Your biggest fan in Australia, Jono T

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