He may not have had the greatest NBA career, but Yao Ming’s impact on the game of basketball goes far beyond the court!
The 7’6 center from Shanghai, China took the basketball world by storm in the summer of 2002. The Rockets made history after they drafted Yao. He became the first international player ever selected with the first overall pick in the NBA draft.
The transition from the CBA to the NBA was not an easy task for the 22-year old rookie. Yao averaged 3 points in the first six games of the season, and has a few embarrassing moments to start his career. However, once he adapted to his newest environment, Yao became an international superstar.
In his first year, he helped the Rockets win 15 more games from their previous season, was voted as a starter for the 2003 NBA All-Star game, and placed second in Rookie of the Year honors behind Phoenix Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire. In a short span of time, Yao established himself as one of the top centers in the league during the mid-to-late 2000s.
Although he made the Rockets a solid contender in the Western Conference, off the court is where Yao made his biggest impact on the game. A global icon who bridged the gap between China and the NBA, Time Magazine listed Yao among the world’s Most Influential People in the World in 2004.
With Yao’s success in the league, the NBA experienced a major frenzy in China as their popularity spread throughout the country. Thanks to Yao, the league experienced a huge increase in their television ratings after Chinese stations expanded their NBA coverage.
With the help of companies and brands like Anta, Li Ning, and Peak, China has become the largest foreign market in the league. As well as his influence on the Chinese Basketball Association, which translated into it’s fair share of NBA stars like Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, and Steve Francis playing for the CBA. Yao Ming’s popularity has also helped to increase the admiration of other NBA stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard.
Even though Yao has not played a game since 2010, China is still a second home for the Rockets. Yao’s career has also opened the doors for other players of Chinese descent like Yi Jianlian, Sun Yue, and of course Jeremy Lin.
Unfortunately, Yao Ming does not have the career accomplishments as the other top Hall of Fame candidates that include Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal. Going up against Iverson and O’Neal will make Yao’s Hall of Fame candidacy a little harder, but no one can deny his influence on China and the NBA.
Over an eight year span with the Rockets, Yao became an eight-time NBA-All Star, while he averaged 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. However, he experienced more success with the Shanghai Sharks where he became a CBA champion and finals MVP in 2002, he averaged 38.9 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.
According to ESPN News, the Hall of Fame finalists will be announced during the NBA All-Star Weekend this February, and the inductees will be unveiled during the NCAA men’s championship game on April 4 in Houston. The Induction ceremony for the 2016 Hall of Fame will be held in September.
Congratulations on the announcement Yao and good luck!