Yao re­flects on Hall of Fame

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

De­spite a rel­a­tively short play­ing ca­reer, re­tired star Yao Ming has been elected a basketball Hall of Famer for his role in help­ing to spread the NBA’s pop­u­lar­ity in China.

Although fin­ish­ing his in­jury­plagued NBA ca­reer with­out a cham­pi­onship ring, Yao’s tow­er­ing con­tri­bu­tion to pro­mot­ing basketball glob­ally has helped him land the big­gest in­di­vid­ual honor in the game.

He has been en­shrined in the Nai­smith Me­mo­rial Basketball Hall of Fame to­gether with other NBA leg­ends in­clud­ing Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iver­son.

“I feel very hon­ored to be part of this list, which also in­cludes Shaq, Al and other great guys in basketball his­tory,” said Yao, 35, who re­tired in 2011 af­ter a se­ries of foot in­juries.

“I didn’t have a long ca­reer in the NBA, but I ap­pre­ci­ate peo­ple giv­ing me the chance to be in­ducted.”

Yao will be hon­ored in Septem­ber at a cer­e­mony in Spring­field, Mas­sachusetts, home of the Nai­smith Me­mo­rial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Af­ter join­ing the NBA in 2002 as the over­all No 1 draft pick by the Hous­ton Rock­ets, Yao played with the team for nine years, av­er­ag­ing 19 points, 9.2 re­bounds and 1.9 blocks per game. He was voted a league All Star eight times.

He could not pro­pel the Rock­ets any fur­ther than the semi­fi­nals of the Western Con­fer­ence playoffs in 2009.

Tan Jianx­i­ang, a sports so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at South China Nor­mal Univer­sity, said more than his on­court per­for­mances, Yao’s celebrity in­flu­ence in help­ing to spread the sport in China and else­where made him stand out.

“He’s had a phe­nom­e­nal im­pact on in­creas­ing aware­ness of the NBA in places out­side the US in a way that no other player could have. Yao’s global reach stands as tall as his 2.16-me­ter frame,” Tan said.

Jeremy Lin, Char­lotte Hor­nets’ Chi­nese-Amer­i­can guard, also praised Yao’s in­spi­ra­tional role.

“Congrats Yao Ming on the Hall of Fame! A trail­blazer for Asians in basketball and more!” Lin posted on his In­sta­gram ac­count on Tues­day along with a photo with Yao.

Thanks par­tially to Yao’s in­flu­ence, basketball is played by 300 mil­lion peo­ple in China, while the NBA is the coun­try’s most-watched North Amer­i­can sports league.

How­ever, Yao re­mains mod­est about his role as an am­bas­sador.

“Basketball is a global game — the char­ac­ter of basketball al­ready made it global. I’m just a lucky guy show­ing up at the right time,” the Shang­hai na­tive said.

SONG QIONG / XIN­HUA

NBA stars Yao Ming and Shaquille O’Neal take part in a video con­fer­ence af­ter both were elected to the Hall of Fame on Tues­day.

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