As an NBA player, you’re not eligible for the Hall of Fame until five years after you’ve retired. So it’s too early to start Yao Ming’s Hall talk, right? Nope. This was actually something I didn’t even know about until recently, but Yao could be inducted into the Hall next year as a “contributor” to the game.
In my mind, this is a no-brainer. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of that honor in the past decade. Throw out all the stats, the injury talk, how short his career was, we can all debate that in five years. For now, you have to focus on what he did for the game of basketball.
Yao wasn’t the first Chinese player in the NBA, but he made the biggest impact, and paved the way for any Chinese player who wants to make it overseas to America. Not only did he create a precedent for Asian NBA players, but he also opened up the league to the most populous country in the world.
Since Yao joined the NBA, viewership, merchandise purchases and overall loyalty have skyrocketed in China. I mean honestly, the guy gets elected to the All-Star game when he can’t even play. He must get mobbed like Justin Bieber when he goes home.
The list of things that Yao has done for the game around the world is endless. It’s not just China, he’s a worldwide phenomenon. He carried the flag for China when they hosted the Olympics, and put an exclamation point on the most exciting opening ceremonies that anyone’s ever seen. It was apparent at that point that he wasn’t just an NBA player, he wasn’t just a sports leader for his country, he was an international icon.
And he’s probably not done either. Sure, he won’t play another minute in the NBA, but he’ll be an ambassador for the game for years to come. It will be interesting to see how David Stern uses him from here on out, but it can only mean positive things for basketball in China.
For all this and more, Yao deserves that spot in the Hall of Fame. His contributions to the game will be remembered throughout history. Even in a short career, he did more for the game of basketball than most could ever dream to do in a lifetime.