Yao Ming is finally playing up to his potential. Yao's numbers since the All-Star break is averaging a prime Shaq-like 27.7 points and 13.6 rebounds. As a former Sonics fan (because I went to college in Seattle) who has switched to the Rockets because of Yao, the past three years have not been rosy, to say the least. Watching Yao play has been a gamble of the spirit. A flash here and there, which did the job of reminding his fans of his enormous potential; but too often enough, the experiences have been embarrassingly disappointing.
In his first year in the NBA, Yao has shown high promises. There were glimpses of greatness, like those Hakim-like moves below the basket, and the no-look passes that no other center, not even Bill Walton, has been able to do so consistently before. But after the first year, his plays were mostly uninspiring. Compared with other NBA players, Yao is slow in his reaction, soft in demeanor, weak in upper-body strength, clumsy with his feet, and too easily falling down for no obvious reasons. As a fan, it pains to see him being surpassed by contemporaries like Amare Stoudemire and younger stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Thank God our loyalty is finally vindicated! For the last month or so, he's been playing like a beast. "He's unstoppable right now," Pacers forward Peja Stojakovic said after Yao's 38 points and 10 rebounds led the Rockets' come-from-behind 103-99 win. "He reminds me of when Shaquille O'Neal was in Los Angeles and winning championships."
For us fans, Yao makes our lives worthwhile and joyful again. Why the sudden transformation? Yao on March 5, after having 32 points and 13 rebounds against Portland Trailblazers, and averaging 23.1 points and 14.3 rebounds in the seven games since the All-Star break, said: "It is a very special feeling right now. I can't figure out what it is. I'll try to keep it the next game, the next game and the next game until my career is done."
A mystical experience! Well, some people have it, most of us never do. The geniuses have it from time to time. I'm just happy that I have a chance to witness someone I like to go through it before my eyes.