It's come to my attention that I was nominated to come to the defense of the player I've been the biggest detractor of for the last two seasons. Armin wrote a killer piece about why he thinks Yao is NOT a Hall of Famer a week ago and now it falls on me to dispute that. So here comes my really lousy attempt.
First off, yes, I have been a big meanie towards Yao since the end of the seven game series loss to the Lakers a few years back. But it was always kind of taken the wrong way by fans. I was never disputing the fact that Yao was a special ballplayer or an all around terrific human being. I was just tired of the team building around a foundation that was so clearly cracked and never going to be reliable again.
However, Yao Ming DOES belong in the Hall of Fame and the #11 should be hanging from the rafters in Toyota Center for the rest of the teams existence. I'll give my reasons why after the jump.
First, let's bring up the negatives against him. First, a true lack of any playoff success. Sure, him and "Metta World Peace" beat an inferior Portland team a couple years ago but what else was achieved? Pushing the eventual world champs to seven games? Big deal; the team still went home. There are no moral victories when you're talking about residence in The Hall.
Next, you have his time missed with injuries. Just like Bill Walton, he had some good years but was never able to harness it into complete seasons for the last five plus years of his career. But what got "The BIg Redhead" into the Hall was the fact that he did win a title (I don't count the one as a cheerleader waving a towel from the bench in Boston) in Portland.
But something that Yao did that Walton never did was bring a whole new global element to the NBA. The millions of NBA fans in China made the league an international phenomenon and made the Rockets the most watched team in the world. As an ambassador of the game, Yao deserves to be in off of that alone.
hen there is the big "Ifs." If he had stayed healthy. If Tracy McGrady had ever been 100%. If they had a better supporting cast. Yao's career numbers are hard to scoff at. I'm not going to flash the numbers and splits at you. Armin did all of that in his post and you guys know I'm not a stathead. So I wouldn't even pretend to fool you off of that.
The bottom line is that while Yao may not belong in the Hall of Fame as a basketball player, he should and certainly will be in there for what he did for the game of basketball. Had he stayed healthy, there's no doubt that he wold be in for both. It will be fun to see him and Shaq going into the Hall in the same year, too.
Sure, it may not be the best argument and I never said that I would make anyone a believer. But in my opinion it is no question that Yao, the Great Ambassador, is deserving of a slot in Springfield, Massachusetts in 2016.