As a long time Rockets fan, I’ve seen both the immediate highs of winning two championships pass through the city and I’ve also seen the lows which was the season Stevie Francis was the team’s lone “star” and we wound up bottoming out to wind up with the #1 pick in 2002.

That pick? Yao Ming, the man whom Houston sports fans hoped would be the heir apparent to Hakeem Olajuwon in terms of great centers in Rockets history. After having an injury plagued career, the 7-6 international star decided to hang it up today, ending one of the great odysseys in Rockets history while also opening the door for a legit debate about whether or not he deserves to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Yao was for better or worst, the only center in the Western Conference worth a damn for a few seasons. In each of his eight seasons, the big man was voted to start in the February classic obviously thanks to his home country over populating the United States by a near 3.5 to 1 margin. Career averages of 19 points & 9 boards almost certainly put him up for worthy debate for inclusion into Springfield but more than likely he’ll get in for his contributions international as opposed to what he did on the NBA hardwood.

Houstonians will remember the good times – such as his 2006-07 season in which he posted career highs in points (25.0) albeit only in 48 games played total that season or the amazing 22-game winning streak the Rockets went on in 2007-2008 and how they came damn close to beating the Lakers in the West Semis in 2009. They’ll also wonder what if both he and fellow superstar at the time Tracy McGrady were healthy for those seasons and if they would have ever gotten over the hump of Dallas & San Antonio to win the Western Conference.

Alas, injuries once again claim one of the best stories that never seemed to be in Houston sports. Let’s hope whenever the lockout ends for the Rockets, their top priority is a center bigger than 6’6″.

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