Tracy McGrady spoke about the greatness of Houston Rockets former center Yao Ming
The mid-2000s era of the Houston Rockets had a lot to live up to. Hakeem Olajuwon had helped push the team to success in the 80s and 90s, leading the team to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 along with the likes of Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, and Clyde Drexler.
With those players all having retired or moved on the team entered a new era in an unconventional way — with a 7-foot-6 big man out of China, Yao Ming. While Yao never pushed the Rockets to a title, he helped the team grow in ways no other player could.
Yao was drafted in 2002 after leading the Shanghai Sharks to much success in the CBA. He overcame controversy and uncertainty in joining the NBA, as many people around Yao, including the Chinese government, were trying to get in on the massive amount of money Yao would be making as an NBA player. Figuring out who he could trust to be in his circle was a major hurdle, one that impacted his draft stock.
Once in the NBA, Yao had to face intense criticism and doubts from analysts and fans alike. For the first time he faced racism and Western stereotypes about Asians, all while being expected to tune the noise out and perform athletically at a high level.
When asked about Yao Ming on a recent podcast, Tracy McGrady made sure to put some respect on Yao’s name and skill level.
Tracy McGrady speaks to the skill Yao Ming brought to the Rockets
Speaking to Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson of All The Smoke, Tracy McGrady had high praise for Yao Ming’s play with the Rockets.
“[He was] highly skilled, I’m talking about, could dribble the ball, could make the right passes, not just you know, making a pass anywhere, passing on target for where you could get in your shot. He sees the floor well. Left hand, right hand, he shot 80-plus percent from the da– foul line. He had it, bro, he had it. He was highly skilled. One of the, probably the most skilled big men I could remember.”
Yao was advantaged by his massive 7-foot-6 frame, of course, but he combined that with knowledge of the game and strong fundamentals to put forth a Hall of Fame career.
While some may say Yao only got in the Hall of Fame because of the global impact he had on the game of basketball, that’s simply not true. Yao was a brutal interior force for opponents to try to counter, averaging 25.0 points and 9.4 rebounds at his peak in 2007.
Yao was a five-time All-NBA player and an eight-time All-Star as well.
While his game was great, his global impact is simply undeniable.
Tracy McGrady speaks on how Rockets legend Yao Ming elevated his profile in China
McGrady has been one of the primary beneficiaries of Yao’s global impact, regularly going to China to promote his brand.
McGrady even played a brief stint in the CBA, and his warm welcome there was in large part to the profile in China brought to him from being Yao’s teammate.
“Being with Yao, I mean, man, it obviously elevated my brand.“
“[Yao’s presence] elevated everybody’s brand that was a part of the Rockets organization,” McGrady said.”
This is how he was welcomed to the country by fans who had followed him while with the Rockets:
Yao Ming’s impact on the Houston Rockets is truly phenomenal.