Yao Ming retired and before I could even dust off my Chinese Rockets jersey or blog his “Yo” commercials, every writer, player, and now coach wants to debate the merits of Yao Ming’s place in the basketball Hall of Fame.
“No. 1 to me, he’s a Hall of Famer,” 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.”
He then added a thought he would repeat often.
“People forget,” Van Gundy said, “just how good he was.”
Yao Ming was an international phenomenon bringing the greatest game on earth to China—the largest country in the world. So yes, he was culturally relevant…but he wasn’t a hall-of-famer, at least, not until a few decades go by and the full impact of his short time in the NBA is felt in it’s entirety. Yes, he was good, but not for long, and unlike Bill Walton—another career cut achingly short—Yao did not have a magical season, like Walton’s in 1977, that on it’s own would earn him induction.
Then there are those players shafted by Springfield, which makes the Yao HOF discussion seem crass in comparison.
Dennis Johnson, the underrated guard of 1980’s juggernaut Celtics squads; the NBA Finals MVP of the 1979 Seattle Supersonics (even though he went like 2-14 in game 7 the year before—approx.); a five time all-star; 11 time all-defensive 1st or 2nd team; “the smartest player I ever played with” according to Larry Bird was not inducted into the hall of fame while he was alive.
Lets give Yao some time, and remember he played seven seasons, and didn’t log more then 500 games for his career; D.J. played 1100.
Yao was more dominant when he wasn’t injured, but he also spent a lot of time on the bench and never advanced past the first round of the playoffs (if he was playing). D.J had three rings, with one of them coming as the leader.
Let’s take more time to give Yao’s time in the league it’s proper perspective, and then induct him. We owe it to D.J. and the other players who contributed more in terms of production and time, even though they weren’t the NBA’s first ambassador to China.
(Chron.com - Houston Chronicle; Yahoo Sports; pic via Yao Ming Mania)