Yao’s Legacy Full of What-Ifs…

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Yao Ming retired from the NBA earlier today after playing nine seasons.

The problem was the last few seasons were injury-marred.

I remember the hype surrounding Yao coming to the NBA when the Rockets wore those ugly-ass blue and red uniforms.  That hype was justified thanks to his strong play and popularity.

Yao single-handedly bridged the NBA and China, which was a boon to the league.  He was constantly voted to the All-Star team, with a great deal of those votes coming from the Far East.

Yao played well when he was healthy.  His NBA stats were as follows:

  • Averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds for his career
  • 83% free throw shooter
  • 8× NBA All-Star (2003–2009, 2011) 
  • 2× All-NBA Second Team (2007, 2009)
  • 3× All-NBA Third Team (2004, 2006, 2008)
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team (2003)

However, his career was cut way too short.  While nine seasons is not a good enough barometer to measure one’s greatest and legacy, one can’t help but ask questions on what would have been.

What if Yao didn’t get hurt the last couple of seasons of his career?  Would he have led the Rockets to an NBA championship if he had stayed healthy?  Would he had been the best big man in the game?  How many MVP awards would he had racked up?  Would he had been a sure-fire Hall of Famer?

It’s unfortunate because I thought Yao was on his way to becoming a great player.  He had a good go-to jump shot.  He made most of his free throws.  He was an underrated passer in the interior.  And most importantly, he was becoming a complete player by dominating both ends of the floor.

I remember Shaquille O’Neal trying to play mind games with him early in Yao’s career (though they became good friends).  A player like Shaq only does that to guys he respects – and dare I say FEAR.

Yao is leaving the game way too soon.  It’s a big loss for the NBA and basketball fans everywhere.

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