Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Yao Returns in his Greatest Game

The buzzer sang with the sweet timbre heard only by fans of the winning team and shortly after it ended, the sound dimmed. Everything was quiet, not just the TV or TNT's post-game show, because it never is, but everything including that was quiet. And, I could hear only a continuous, low hum. Shock. And I've been in shock all day.

Trying to clear my head enough to write anything substantive about last night's upset win over the Lakers had been a fruitless exercise until now. It was quite simply a joy to watch. The kind that Rockets fans haven't really had a chance to get used to. But after a first round series win and an upset win away from home, we should start.

In Yao Ming's 7 seasons, this was the greatest single game of his NBA career (thus far). Whatever the Rockets needed him to do, he did, but it was more than just that. L.A. couldn't put him down. After what was at the time a heart-stopping collision with Kobe late in the 4th, he came back and finished the game. I have to admit I thought it was over--that once again it was too good to be true. But Yao rose, like a phoenix with a clipped wing, but he rose and he came back and he helped Houston win this game.

And, in that moment, Yao was reborn. Houston fans were baptized. Yao did what the great sports heroes of Houston's past have done. More than his fair share, more than just what was expected of him. He overcame adversity and what had to be deep and subconscious fears about that knee and he willed Houston to a win. If he can get to Game 2 without any complications and finish this series, win or lose, the demons, the little mogwais embedded in Yao's structural integrity may finally be banished. And Houston fans may look brightly to the future.

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Danny Moloshok