Yao enters Hall of Fame
Yao Ming, who inspired a generation of NBA fans in his native China, wistfully acknowledged a career that “ended too soon” as he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I treasure each and every moment. I’m grateful for my time on court and for your recognition tonight,” Yao said in a speech that was also littered with humorous digs at his fellow inductees.
The towering seven-foot-six-inch center was joined in the class of 2016 by the likes of center Shaquille O’Neal and guard Allen Iverson.
“My parents were basketball players back to the 1970s,” Yao, the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, said at the ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts on Sept 9.
“I’m so fortunate to be your son. The gift I got from you was not only the height but the way you taught me to think, and to make decisions,” he said.
He then joked about how his parents had taught his “soft touch on the free throw line”, taking a friendly pot shot at O’Neal, who was notoriously inaccurate from the line during his career.
An eight-time All-Star, Yao played 486 games over nine years, all with the Houston Rockets, averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds before foot and ankle injuries forced his retirement in 2011.
“We all look older and fatter than when we first met,” Yao, 35, joked as he reminisced about his career.
Others inducted on Friday included 11-time All-Star Iverson, the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, as well as Sheryl Swoopes, a three-time gold medalist on the United States women’s Olympic team.
Yao Ming (right, second) and his wife Ye Li (left, second) pose with fans at the Springfield Symphony Hall before the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on Friday.