Yao Ming

July 24, 2011 · 0 comments

in NBA

Yao MingIn 2002, Yao Ming became the first foreign born player to be drafted #1 overall in the NBA. From there, he went on to become one of the best centers during the 2000′s. Unfortunately, injuries have cut his career short and he has recently retired. But when he was playing, he was a force to be reckoned with due to his size, his athleticism, and his intelligence. He was the center piece of a Houston Rockets team that hadn’t seen glory since Hakeem Olajuwan, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler were on the team. He made the sport, already internationally popular, even more so. Does he belong with the true greats? Is he hall-worthy?

Shooting Rebounds Assists Blocks Points
FG% FT% RPG Total APG Total BPG Total PPG Total
.524 .833 9.2 4494 1.6 769 1.9 920 19.0 9247
Awards
  • 8x NBA All Star
  • 2x All-NBA second team
  • 3x All-NBA third team

Hall

by Isaac Rickert

When Yao Ming came into the league, I thought he was gifted, but soft. I immediately wrote him off as a really tall center who could score, but would be dominated by the true centers of the league. This was when Shaq was inequitably the most unstoppable force the NBA had seen in years. I described Yao's prowess as just being taller than everyone on the court.

And then he started to improve all facets of his game. While he was a shot blocker already due to height, he improved over time. While he was a giant on the floor and picked up rebounds, he improved those numbers as well.

But just as he was changing my mind, his huge frame started to show it's giant disadvantage: wear and tear on his body. From 2005 through today, he missed over 200 games including missing all of the 2009-2010 season. He made a brief comeback in 2010, but was quickly placed back on the injured reserve list as he couldn't keep up.

But enough of the negative. What did he do over his career? From an award standpoint, he was the first foreign born player drafted #1 overall. He went to eight all star games. However, he never cracked the All-NBA team (granted he was going against Shaq). He also never accrued important hardware like an MVP trophy or NBA championship. Or, important to Chinese, an Olympic medal.

His stats look like this:

  • 9247 total points
  • 19.0 PPG average
  • 1.9 blocks per game
  • 9.2 rebounds
  • 83% free throw percentage
  • 52% field goal percentage

Not bad numbers. And keeping in mind that he improved his PPG each year through 2007 by around 4 points each season is fairly remarkable.

It's hard to compare him to other HOFers as Ming hasn't even played 10 years yet. David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon each played into their late 30's. But their point and rebound totals are similar (21.1 and 11.1 for Robinson; 21.8 and 11.1 for Olajuwon). But those two also dwarf Ming on blocks (3.1 and 3.3 respectively). And Ming is 5 inches taller than both.

If we go off of pure numbers and awards, the answer has to be "no."  He has All-Star votes to his name only. His blocking totals are way too low for someone who is 7'6" and athletic. And no rings. Granted, that was when the Lakers were at their prime, the Pistons put together a team from nothing (the Seinfield of the NBA), the Heat were taking on Shaq to make a run, and the Spurs were the Spurs, but rings do play an important part.

However, I believe he will make it into the Hall. His career was cut short. He will be turning 31 this year. He's only 2 years younger than Kobe. And the fact that he's brought a huge fan base to the NBA from across the Pacific will play a heavy part as well. They're going to give their cash cow a proper reward.

And all things considered, he was a really good player. However, if it wasn't for the large global impact that Ming had, he wouldn't be nearly as sure of a bet.

Hall

by Brad Rizza

Shortly after the Houston Rockets drafted Yao Ming first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft, Charles Barkley wagered Kenny Smith that if Yao scored 20 points in a game during his first rookie season, Charles would smooch Kenny’s rumpus. Barkley also remarked that Yao made the notoriously soft Shawn Bradley look like Bill Russell. Well, within one month, Charles lost his bet and when the 2002-2003 season ended, Yao was voted the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, the Laureus World Sports Award for Breakthrough of the Year, and a unanimous selection to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

Skepticism hounded Yao throughout the drawn out process of negotiating his release from the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and continued to follow him for much of his first few months in the league. Since that time, we’ve come to realize that Yao Ming is quite possibly the most offensively skilled big man to come along in a generation, a role model humanitarian off the court, and one of the most significant and impactful players in the history of the sport. But with injuries forcing Yao to retire before the age of 31, many are saying that Yao didn’t do enough to deserve enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame doesn’t give criteria for induction but by merely looking at the international players it has inducted in the last decade, its clear Yao will one day be a Hall of Famer. Since 2000, both Arvydas Sabonis and Drazen Petrovic (who only played until he was 28 years old) have been elected to the Hall mostly for contributions abroad and in International competition. That’s exactly the point. The Hall of Fame isn’t about the NBA, it’s not about the Olympics or the FIBA Championships, it’s about Basketball.

ESPN analyst and former Rocket’s coach Jeff Van Gundy said, "I don't care if you put him in as player, as a contributor or put him in with his own heading. This guy definitely gets in for the greatness as a player when healthy or what he did as ambassador. People forget just how good he was."  Let’s look at just how good he was.

Yao led the Chinese National Team to consecutive FIBA Asian Championship gold medals and was named the MVP of all three tournaments. Yao played in two FIBA World Championships, averaging 20.7 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 55.9% from the field in 2002 while in 2006, Yao led the tournament in scoring, averaging 25.3 points. In the 2008 Olympics, Yao finished second in scoring average and third in blocks and rebounds per game.

In the NBA, Yao was named to the All-Star team in 8 of his 9 seasons, leading the Rockets to the playoffs four times while averaging 19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, over 35 minutes per game and totaling a .519 field goal percentage in his almost 30 playoff games.

Let’s compare Yao’s career totals to Hall of Famer, Bill Walton, who only played two more years than Yao.

Player PPG RPG BPG FT%
Bill Walton 13.3 10.5 2.2 .660
Yao Ming 19.0 9.2 1.9 .833

Walton played in four playoffs in his career, missing one of the four almost entirely. His playoff averages pale in comparison to Yao’s. Let’s look at Yao’s career head-to-head matchups with Dwight Howard, an already pre-ordained future Hall of Fame center.

Player Games Wins PPG RPG FT%
D. Howard 9 2 12.2 9.8 .600
Yao Ming 9 7 23.6 10.4 .790

Former teammate and current Rockets center, Chuck Hayes said, "Michael Jackson was before my time. Elvis was before my time but if I had to guess, it was like being around Yao Ming." During the course of his career, Yao has raised or donated over $10 million to noteworthy causes such as SARS prevention, underprivileged children and the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. With Yao retired, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him continue to add to his off-the-court Hall of Fame credentials over the next five years.

Yoa Ming: Hall or No Hall?

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