Houston Rockets: 30 Greatest players in franchise history

By Ben Beecken
Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell, Otis Thorpe (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell, Otis Thorpe (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /

169. . . Center. Yao Ming. 4


  • Eight seasons with the Rockets (2002-09, 2010-11)

  • Averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game

  • 8x All-Star with the Rockets

Yao Ming was the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and was an immediate sensation.

Standing 7-foot-6 and possessing strong post moves and deft passing skills, Ming was a perfect fit for the NBA game. His popularity on the world stage helped him to garner a starting spot on the Western Conference All-Star team each year he was eligible.

Yao averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds as a 22-year-old rookie, starting 72 of 82 games and playing 29 minutes per night. The Rockets won 43 games, but missed the playoffs in what was Rudy Tomjanovich’s last year as head coach.

The next season brought Jeff Van Gundy into the fold, and the team relied heavily on Yao en route to 45 wins. Yao averaged a team-leading 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a second-year player.

The next few years is when Yao’s career really took off, as he averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game over the next five seasons, spanning from 2004 to 2009.

The team won 51, 34 and 52 games under Van Gundy during those seasons. Then with Rick Adelman at the helm, the team improved to 55 wins in 2007-08 and 53 wins in 2008-09.

Foot troubles beset Yao, however, and he missed the entire 2009-10 season and only appeared in 10 games in 2010-11 before calling it a career. He continues to be an ambassador for the NBA and is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in part due to the international impact he’s had on the game.

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