When Yao Ming entered the NBA in 2002, many people thought that he was going to be the one who would give Shaquille O’Neal, the then most dominant big man in the league, the most trouble out of all the opponents he was facing. The media created a narrative of the two giants as arch enemies (they were actually friends) and the fans loved the rivalry. However, there were doubters who questioned Yao’s game. But as time passed, Yao proved these doubters wrong as he showed that he can ball with the very best in the NBA.
In his eight year career, he was selected as an NBA All-Star for all of them (though he shouldn’t have been in his final season as he only played five games and sat out the rest due to injury), and made the playoffs four times with the Houston Rockets. He was also his draft class’s Rookie of the Year, and he holds career averages of 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks.
And according to Dime Magazine, “at his peak, Yao was among the very best players in basketball, an offensive monster who scored with ease in the post, drew fouls at will, and even consistently stretched the floor to 20 feet.”
So, with all these accomplishments, it comes as no surprise that he has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016. According Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, an official announcement will be made at the NCAA Final Four in Houston this weekend.
But aside from the stats and achievements, another reason why Yao deserves to be a Hall of Famer is because of his influence on China’s basketball culture. According to ESPN, Yao’s presence in the NBA blew up the league’s market in China as its merchandise sales and television ratings grew massively there during his time in the NBA.
“He was the league’s first Chinese star, and NBA merchandise sales and television ratings in China mushroomed during his career. In 2007, a game his Rockets played against the Milwaukee Bucks, featuring Yi Jianlian, was broadcast on 19 networks in China and watched by more than 200 million people in the country, making it one of the most-watched NBA games in history.”
Yao had a great personality and was a very likable player, and was a role model for many Asian kids who loved basketball (actually, all Asian kids). Yao deserves this and it is great that he is being recognized not just for his basketball talents, but also his positive influence.