Since Yao Ming(notes) decided to retire from the NBA, the lion's share of the post-mortems have struck serious, reverential, even wistful notes. Writers of all stripes have dumped barrels of ink lauding the grace of both Yao's game and his exit, cursing the injuries that kept his unique gifts sidelined for too much of the last five years, considering what a Yao-less Association means for the future of both the sport and the league in China, and so on. By and large, it's been a sober collection of reflections, which seems appropriate for a widely beloved and respected player whose absence will make our basketball-loving lives at least a little poorer.
But it's also a bit too stiff a sendoff for a guy whose response to the stress fracture that effectively rendered his career all over but the shouting was, "I haven't died ... Right now I'm drinking a beer and eating fried chicken. What were you expecting, a funeral?"
Sure, Yao's a giant human being whose life and career impact the world in ways that reach far beyond the basketball court. But he's also just kind of a funny dude, which is why it's pretty great to see the vaunted Taiwanese CGI content studio/viral video farm Next Media Animation put its unique spin on the news of Yao's retirement.
NMA's seemingly hallucinogen-fueled 104-second retrospective on Yao's career — which begins with a fully clothed baby Yao hatching from a basketball that his mother expels from her netherparts in broad daylight on a schoolyard basketball court, and actually kind of gets weirder from there — is an Irish wake for our dear Chinese departed, a brilliant bit of blithe, abject nonsense that lets some air out of the big retirement balloon and lets us have a nice, context-free laugh at the end of Yao's career. And if there's anything we know about Yao, it's that he loves to laugh.
In a hastily assembled ranking of NMA's recent sports-themed winners, I'd slot the Yao retirement video ahead of its hot-off-the-YouTubes take on Tiger Woods firing longtime caddy Steve Williams, but behind the studio's epic send-up of English soccer star Ashley Cole shooting an intern with an air rifle. Now, had NMA tacked on a brief epilogue in which Yao defends Shanghai from zombies by turning into an oversized, thinly veiled Big Bad Beetleborg who fires molten spectral sharks from his off-brand Astral Sword, it might take the top spot. But I guess you can't always think all the way outside the box when you're an animator on deadline.