Yao Ming delivered a heart warming and humorous induction speech at the 2016 NBA Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.
Welcoming Yao Ming to the Hall were NBA legend Bill Russell, Bill Walton and former Houston Rockets teammate Dikembe Mutombo. Ming began his speech with an awesome joke. Ming said I thought Allen Iverson should’ve been the first to speak. But, then Ming realized he needed “more practise”. The obvious pun meant to touch on Iverson’s infamous 2006 “practice rant”.
Younger NBA fans might be missing out on the origin of the joke. This YouTube video encapsulates Iverson’s famous practice rant, where he mentions the word practice in a mere 2:23:
It was the best joke delivered the entire evening causing the audience to roar with laughter and applause.
Yao Ming Welcome Committee:
Each of the players who Ming selected to introduce him to the Hall carried a significant place in his heart and subsequently in his speech. First of all, Ming thanked Russell for hosting a dinner meeting in his rookie season. Russell dispensed advice Ming found particularly applicable on and off the court. Walton was pivotal in helping Ming deal with his foot injury having suffered a similar career shortening injury. Mutombo was the recipient of another Yao joke referencing his mentoring along with elbows delivered in practice.
Yao Ming Coaches and Fellow Rockets:
Yao was especially thankful for his introduction to the game in China and the people who assisted his growth. Additionally, Ming refereced Houston Rockets management, teammates and fans. Specifically Ming gave thanks to owner Leslie Alexander, GM Daryl Morey and each of his 3 coaches spanning his 8 year career (Rudy Tomjanovich, Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Adelman).
Sep 09, 2016; Springfield, MA, USA; Yao Ming speaks during the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Tomjanovich and Van Gundy both attended, though I didn’t spot Adelman in the crowd. In addition, Ming noted Rudy’s “never under estimate the heart of a champion” inspirational quote. Yao credited Van Gundy for the Rockets especially tough defensive squad and lovingly referred to the team as a brotherhood.
Furthermore, he noted the additions of Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier, Rafer Alson and Mutumbo. Ming cited Van Gundy’s quote of “your best chance may also be your last chance” as particularly inspiring. Adelman was earmarked for introducing especially relevant skills along with player additions Carl Landry, Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks.
Additional Speech Highlights:
It was clear Ming has a strong attachment with his first teammates Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. Francis was recalled as the perfect big brother welcoming Yao with an especially hard high five and hug on his first day in Houston. Then in another humorous bit he spoke of Mobley inviting him to his house to eat soul food. Because Ming did not understanding English fully he thought Mobley said “Celtic” food.
Sep 09, 2016; Springfield, MA, USA; Shaquille O Neal speaks at the Springfield Symphony Hall during the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
As for Yao’s opponents he pinpointed fellow inductee Shaq consequently saying every meeting reminded him of the saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
Arguably the most touching portion of Ming’s speech was citing Houston as his second home. Ming endearingly referred to H-Town’s fans as being loyal and welcoming. Ming thanked the people of Houston for standing by him through the good and bad times and giving him strength to move forward. He further stated he will always consider you (Houston natives) as part of his family saying “I’m a Texan and a Houston Rocket for life“.
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To finish his speech Ming delivered arguably the most poignant comment of the evening:
“Ladies and gentlemen I’d like to pay my respect to Dr. Naismith and to all those 361 previous members of the Hall of Fame. And, to everyone who has contributed to the game of basketball all over the world in the last 125 years. All of these individuals are the stars in the sky who form a galaxy in the universe of basketball. The game has inspired billions of people around the world. As one of them I will do my part to continue to grow the great game of basketball. We are all looking forward to see the stars of tomorrow emerge and shine. Thank you again for this great honor, thank you.”
For those who are familiar with the big center and his time spent with the Houston Rockets his humorous, heartfelt speech was no surprise. For NBA fans who didn’t know much about Yao Ming this moment will no doubt showcase why Ming was considered the gentle giant. Yao Ming did the Houston Rockets and himself proud.
Space City Scoop congratulates Yao Ming on this important career marker.