Yao reflects on Hall of Fame
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.
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.