With the news coming down that Yao Ming is calling it quits, there's been a lot of speculation about Yao Ming. Will the Rockets retire his jersey? What finally convinced him to hang it up? What will the Rockets do with the extra cash? And finally, does Yao Ming belong in the Hall of Fame?
At first I wanted to write about how great Yao was, and how he did deserve to be a Hall of Famer. If I was a betting man, I'd say he's in. When you think about what he did for the NBA brand globally, bringing in an audience from a country of over 1 billion people, you have to think his importance to the game by itself warrants an invite. But as much as we love Yao, there's an unfortunate hair in the soup, if you will.
Yao Ming does not deserve to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Based on statistics, playoff success, and even most of the "intangibles," Yao Ming cannot be considered a player worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Follow me after the jump where I make enemies of all of you.
In my year-and-a-half plus here on TDS, I've made my feelings about the big man well-known. He's one of my favorite players. Not now, but ever. I loved his game from the start. I loved how hard he worked. Remember how skinny he was when he first got here? By the end he was as jacked as a 7-6 guy could be. There are so many times where he made a big basket or said something in a press conference that astounded me. He was a great basketball player, and by all accounts he is an even better man.
But it's not called the Hall of Very Good. NFL writers always say that, and it sounds stupid. However, it begs the question: what defines fame?
Is it someone who is famous? Because even people who don't follow basketball at all have probably heard of
Ron Artest Metta World Peace. But if Peace (yeah I'm done with this) ever gets in the Hall of Fame, I'll never listen to another writer or "expert" again. Though it will mean that David Stern will have killed himself, so there's that.
Is it a player with playoff success? Then Robert Horry should be a shoe-in, but not many seem to agree.
Is it a player with great stats? Reggie Miller fits that description, but he's not in the Hall (yet).
Mostly, it's a combination of the second two. Great players are defined by having fabulous stats in relation to their peers while achieving at least a modicum of success when the games mattered the most. We'll get the postseason later. What's important now is that Yao barely fits the first criteria.
The bane of all sportswriters nowadays, but how else to compare and contrast NBA players? Looking at the basic stats, here are four players spanning from the 1970s to today.
Player A: 47% shooting 20/10 career
Player B: 52% shooting, 23/6/3 career
Player C: 52% shooting, 19/9/2/2 career
Player D: 48% shooting, 20/5/3 career
It's terrible looking at stats alone, isn't it? It doesn't tell the whole story. Maybe Player A was a ball hog. Maybe Player B was detested by teammates. Did Player C play defense? You get the picture.
But looking at these four players, can you identify one as better than the others? Not really. A, B, and C seem better than D, who still has pretty impressive stats. I think we can all agree these players are comparable. Fair enough? Let's move on.
Player A: 47% shooting 20/10 career, NBA champion
Player B: 52% shooting, 23/6/3 career, 2 playoff series won
Player C: 52% shooting, 19/9/2/2 career, 1 playoff series won
Player D: 48% shooting, 20/5/3 career, NBA champion
Now it's obvious that Yao is Player C. But we start to get a better picture. Player A suddenly looks like the best player, with Player D a close second. Both have the resumes to suggest they should be in the Hall. Definitely Player A. But here comes the kicker.
None of these four players are currently in the Hall of Fame.
And it doesn't seem like A, B, or D are getting in anytime soon.
Player A is Spencer Haywood. Player B is Bernard King. Player C is Yao. Player D is Mark Aguirre.
Haywood played until 1983. King was done is 1993. Aguirre retired in 1994. All have had plenty of time to get into the Hall. None, including the two champions, are in. By this metric, Yao Ming shouldn't be let within 10 feet of the Hall of Fame.
And There's More
Yeah, we're not done here. Yao played nine seasons. That's nothing. Looking at the more recent inductees, I couldn't find anyone who played fewer than 12 seasons except Arvydas Sabonis (joined the NBA at 31) and Bill Walton (more injuries than Yao). That's not to mention the games missed. It's 252. And it's even more if you count the six games he missed in the 2008 playoffs due to injury. One of my fondest memories of Yao is when he got hurt during the 22-game winning streak. I was devastated like everyone else. But during his press conference, Yao was almost in tears. He was frustrated and mad and disappointed. He was letting his teammates down and the helplessness was palpable. But those memories were too frequent for my liking. Think about this: for every three games that Yao was in the NBA, he was injured for one of them.
Yao didn't perform much better in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. The Hall likes players who step up in big moments and make the game their own in the closing minutes. I saw Yao do this countless times in the regular season, but outside of Game 1 against the Lakers three years ago when he came back after getting injured I never saw it in the playoffs.
Finally, there's something no one wants to say: Yao Ming would have to go into the Hall with Shaq if he gets in on the first ballot. Those two have polar opposite career achievements. Shaq has MVPs, rings, and more. Yao doesn't have much of anything. It will look silly for the two to enter the Hall side-by-side. It will diminish Shaq's accomplishments (though I hate Shaq so that would be okay), but it would hurt the reputation of the Hall, which is a real thing whether we like it or not.
All-in-all, the miscellaneous things are going against Yao getting into the Hall, too.
It's sad. I really want Yao in the Hall of Fame, and he'll almost certainly get in. But he won't belong there. Not as a basketball player, anyway.