Houston Rockets: Ranking the top 10 players in team history
5. Yao Ming
Yao Ming was selected first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Rockets and played a full eight seasons in Houston. Yao was selected to eight All-Star teams and even was named to five All-NBA teams during his time in Houston. Yao is one of the few players in league history to make the All-Star team in each season he played in.
Yao’s time would be marred by injuries, as he missed a total of 262 games, which is the equivalent of more than three full seasons. In fact, Yao missed the 2008 postseason altogether, which was a series in which the Rockets could have used him as they were eliminated in the first round by the Utah Jazz.
On the floor, Yao has career averages of 19 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game and 1.9 blocks per game. In Yao’s first season, he was the runner-up to Amar’e Stoudemire for the Rookie of the Year Award, which is no surprise as he led the team in rebounds and blocked shots. In fact, Yao finished 14th in total blocks and blocks per game as a rookie.
In Yao’s second season in the league, which was the 2003-2004 season, he finished with 156 blocked shots, which were the 12th-most in the league that season. Yao also led the Rockets in scoring, rebounding and blocks that season. During that year, Yao carried the Rockets into the postseason, which ended a four-year drought.
The following season, which was the 2004-2005 season, the Rockets won 51 games, which was the first time the team had won 50-plus games in eight years. Yao was a big reason for that, as he led the team in rebounds and blocks, and he had the eighth-most blocks in the league that year. The Rockets also made the postseason that year but were eliminated in the first round despite Yao’s 21.4 points per game and 2.7 blocks per game in the playoffs.
That season Yao played in 80 games, which marked the most games Yao would play in a single season for the rest of his career. During the 2005-2006 season, Yao would miss 25 games during the 2005-2006 season, but averaged 10.2 rebounds, which was sixth-best in the league. In addition, Yao led the team in rebounds and blocks yet again. The Rockets missed the playoffs that season, in part due to Yao’s injury woes.
During the 2006-2007 season, Yao had a career-best 25 points per game, which tied for ninth in the league and led the team. In addition, Yao averaged two blocks per game, which tied him for tenth with Ben Wallace and also led the team in that category. Despite Yao missing 34 games, the Rockets still went 52-30 that year, securing the fifth seed in the Western Conference and drawing a first-round match-up against the Utah Jazz. Despite Yao’s 25.1 points and 10.3 rebounds, the Rockets were eliminated within seven games.
During the 2007-2008 season, Yao led the Rockets in points, rebounds and blocks per game, as he averaged 22 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Yao’s 10.8 rebounds were a career-best and ranked sixth-best in the league, while he ranked seventh in the league in blocks. The Rockets won 55 games, which were the most in 11 years, and secured them the fifth seed in the Western Conference, but they were also eliminated in the first round by the Utah Jazz again.
During the 2008-2009 season, Yao was able to play in 77 games and led the Rockets in points, rebounds and blocks. During that season, Yao finished sixth in the league in total blocks and seventh in the league with 9.9 rebounds per game, leading the Rockets to 53 wins and the fifth seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets were finally able to make it past the first-round series after they beat the Portland Trail Blazers.
Yao ranks seventh in team history in field goals made, sixth in total rebounds, second in blocks and seventh in total points, and later had his number 11 jersey retired. Yao also ranks ninth in team history in points per game and rebounds per game and ranks third in blocks per game, and was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as well.
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