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Yao Ming, the man with one bad left foot !

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Born in the Garyindiananeighborhood of Shanghai, China, Yao's humble beginnings instilled a strong work ethic in his left foot from a young age. Most of its childhood was spent touring the country as the Yao Ming Five; the group dissolved after the pinkie toe left to pursue a solo career.

Then in 2002, Yao's left foot burst onto the world scene, and the media couldn't get enough. They raved about its electrifying pivots, how it lifted Yao into another orbit on slam dunks. Shoe companies fought to sign the foot to a shoe deal, leading to the infamous 2004 Reebok commercial in which the left foot's shoelaces caught fire during filming.

Stumbling downward

As the seasons passed, the surgeries stacked up. The foot took on a strange appearance and began wearing bizarre socks all the time. There was the trip to rehab for Icy Hot addiction, the sleepovers with Webster and Macaulay Culkin. The whispers began.

The media turned vicious, nicknaming Yao's foot "Wacko Walko." Paparazzi made it impossible to visit the local Foot Locker. Then came allegations (unproven) of footsie with minors at its palatial ottoman outside Los Angeles.

Yao's left foot became a punch line.

And now, when that same foot's days appear numbered, these same media phonies are praising it on TV, talking about what a tragedy this is, referring to its legacy. They offer fake condolences to the Rockets, who reached the dizzying heights of the second round of the NBA playoffs when Yao's foot was healthy.

The media lay the blame at the feet of the foot's hangers-on -- the shady bunion doctors, the synthetic-fiber socks that slowly wicked away all the moisture and left Yao's foot high and dry.

But the media are just as guilty. So are we all.

Requiem for a foot

Yao's left foot wanted love and acceptance. But happiness and greatness rarely occupy the same shoebox.

Poor foot. You seemed off the wall at first -- that's how revolutionary you were. At your best, you thrilled us. Even your bad was better than your contemporaries' best -- dangerously so.

That's why I choose to look back on your history and remember the good times. In the end, you were not invincible. You didn't have to be.

Footrest in peace.

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