Oct 18, 2013; Shanghai, China; Houston Rockets former center Yao Ming and his wife Ye Li and daughter Yao Qinlei in attendance during the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors at Mercedes-Benz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Danny La-USA TODAY Sports
A succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field. (As per Google’s definition)
Yao Ming may not have played in the NBA long enough to have created a dynasty-like career, nor has a member of his family played in the NBA prior to his inception into the league, but he certainly silenced the critics by the time he got acclimated with the NBA game.
The road to his success in the NBA wasn’t an easy transition, and the biggest challenge might not have been basketball-related.
Ming entered the league not being able to speak English, nor was he accustomed to North American culture.
While that might have been a daunting obstacle for most foreign players, Ming’s strong work-ethic and humble approach allowed him to get adjusted relatively quickly.
It wasn’t without some hiccups and moments to laugh about now that his career is over, but you could say he earned a lot of respect quickly.
In terms of the not so pretty plays, the two most notable plays that stick with me are ones that came early in his career.
There’s the infamous play where Stephon Marbury crosses up the big man, and Ming crumbles to the floor. Everyone loves to see the classic ankle breaker, but in his defense, this is a man standing at seven feet-six inches trying to “D-up” one of the quickest, most agile point guards in the NBA at that time.
Center of gravity alone left Ming in no-man’s land at that point.
The other play is when Kobe Bryant put Ming on a poster as a welcome to the NBA.
Consider it their way of welcoming him to the league or rookie hazing, but it didn’t take long for him to pick everything up from the language and culture to the scouting report and feel for the NBA game.
Seeing as I mentioned the Black Mamba, you could say there was some respect shown to Ming at the end of the video above when Bryant asks Tim Duncan to allow Ming to take the tip-off at the All-Star game. Yes, Duncan – a sure future Hall of Famer – took a step aside to let the young star from China to tip-off the All-Star festivities. Talk about two humble big men that have always represented the NBA well.
Now that I’ve highlighted Ming’s introduction into the league, let’s look at the most talked about match-up of his career.
The man challenging Ming in this one-on-one match-up is Shaquille O’Neal.
Here’s Ming’s first encounter with the Big Aristotle.
You could say the Ming-O’Neal match-up was not only Ming’s biggest challenge as an NBA center, but it was in my opinion, the best match-up of centers during Ming’s years in the entire NBA.
Shaq was in his prime during Ming’s years in the NBA, and while men like Olajuwon and Robinson were the most talked about big men in the previous era, it was Ming who handled the paint for the Rockets in the post-Olajuwon era, and it was quite the ticket-selling marquee matchup.
Here’s “Yao vs. Shaq” on Christmas Day in Ming’s second year in the NBA.
It’s clear I wasn’t the only one who felt this was a marquee match-up worth putting in the national television spotlight.
You don’t get a Christmas Day game unless the league and fans want to see you and your team amongst all the other teams in the NBA, and both these iconic big men always came to play and put on a show for fans when their teams matched up.
Here’s “Yao vs. Shaq” in year three. Note his ability to handle doing interviews without his translator.
Aside from this classic match-up of bigs, Ming had plenty of highlights, and once he got more comfortable playing the NBA style, he started to show why he was the first-overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft.
It’s my word against the word of his peers.
Let’s listen in on what Shaq had to say about his NBA counterpart once it was all said and done.
Like Shaq says, had it not been for the injuries, Ming might’ve been revered as one of the top five centers to ever play the game. That’s some pretty high praise coming from someone who’s already in that discussion of the Mount Rushmore of big men.
To celebrate his career, let’s take a look at an NBA compilation of the top 10 plays of his career.
My favorite plays are plays five, four, and one.
As soon as you hear the television announcer say, “keep the ball hopping,” Ming does more than just keep the ball hopping. He puts NBA champion Ben Wallace on a poster.
Play No.4 showcases Ming’s passing touch and takes me back to the days of watching one of the greatest at passing the ball for a big man in Arvydas Sabonis.
And play No.1 simply takes us all back to the days of being mesmerized by another Rockets first-overall pick and center in Olajuwon.
One of Ming’s former teammates in Tracy McGrady said “it was a pleasure being Yao’s teammate” in a locker room interview in 2010.
It was also a pleasure to watch Ming as a fan.
This final video asks the question of whether Ming was dominant or not.
Even with the injuries that cut his career short, I’d say he should go down as one of the greatest centers to ever play the game of basketball.
And to highlight my final Rockets player who displayed one of the most anticipated one-on-one match-ups throughout his career, I pass the torch to a man who was on the Rockets roster with Ming when the Rockets won 22-straight games in 2008.
Next up Part 3….. Can you guess who?
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