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Yao Ming’s Toe and the Church


Photo and article reference from

Yao Ming is the premiere Asian basketball in the world and it's been quite rewarding for Asian Americans who enjoy basketball so much to have someone to root for. Of course, not all of us can relate to being 7'6" and wearing size 16 shoes. But there is a certain demeanor and sportsmanship about Yao Ming that is familiar, admirable, and well, consistent. Interestingly enough, because Yao exhibits the quiet resolution and even-keel temperament typical of many Asians, I had always felt that there was a correlation that could be made between Yao and the Asian American church. It happens to be in the toes.

For those you that need a little background on Yao's little piggies, I include the following paragraph from the ever-informative Wiki entry:

"Although players his size have historically been unreliable, Yao had been very durable during his first three seasons in the NBA. He missed no games in his first two seasons, and failed to play in only two during his third. However, twenty-two games into his fourth season Yao was forced onto the inactive list for an extended period for the first time in his career due to an acute case of osteomyelitis in the big toe on his left foot. The toe had been giving him trouble since its nail had fallen off in the preseason, and Yao blamed Danny Fortson for aggravating it in a game against the Sonics in Seattle. On December 18, 2005, with the rest of the team staying in Los Angeles to play the Lakers, Yao returned to Houston to have surgery performed on the toe. He was placed on the inactive list and missed a total of 21 games, returning to the lineup on January 30. Since his return Yao seems more dominant than ever, playing more minutes and becoming more and more the center of the Rockets offense. As a result he is averaging career highs in points, minutes and rebounds."

In a recent ESPN article, when asked about the late December toe surgery that has clearly improved his mobility, Yao says: "[The pain was] getting worse every day and I [kept] making it worse because I don't want to miss games. It's a very good lesson for me. Anything painful, I have to tell the trainer and let them help me." (emphasis mine)

Here's the correlation between Yao's toe and the church. By holding the notion that to miss games was worse than healing; by "humbling" himself to the point where Yao felt that he was inconveniencing the trainer, it was detrimental to the team; by regarding pain as a worthy burden, he missed the chance to really prove his worth. Only be letting that false pride go, by "letting [trainers] help" him, by understanding that pain is an indicator of dysfunction, not as a badge of courage, was Yao able to begin really establishing himself as the quality of player that everyone knew he could be.

So in regards to the church, we can take from this . . . ah, I've spoken too much already, haven't I?


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

One response to “Yao Ming’s Toe and the Church

  1. jason

    what a great lesson. thanks for the insight, mr. d.

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