By Shawn Muller-
(CBS) On July 20th, 2011, Houston Rockets all-star center Yao Ming retired from the NBA after eight injury-plagued seasons. He put up solid career numbers, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds. He was also named Rookie of the Year, named to the Western Conference All-Star team all eight seasons, named to the All-NBA Second Team twice and the All-NBA Third Team three times.
If he had been able to stay healthy and go on to a lengthy NBA career, it is very possible that Yao Ming would have been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for Yao, he wasn’t able to stay healthy and he probably won’t reach the Hall of Fame as a player.
But does that mean his Hall of Fame membership is all but over?
Well, not exactly.
A member of the Chinese media nominated Ming for the Hall of Fame, not as a player, but as a “contributor” to the game, due to the impact his career in the league had on China and all of Asia.
While Ming undoubtedly made the NBA popular in the most populous nation and continent in the world, and made an ever-lasting imprint on the globalization of the game, I just can’t give Yao the nod for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame solely because of his contributions.
To me, this is a feeble attempt to give credit to Ming for something he is not fully responsible for. The “globalization” of the NBA did not happen when the Chinese big man was drafted eight years ago. It started back in 1992 when the one and only “Dream Team” turned Barcelona into the center of the sporting universe at the Summer Olympics.
Michael, Magic, Larry, and the rest of the members of the original Dream Team are more responsible than Yao was in turning the NBA into a global game. If it weren’t for the Dream Team, basketball would not have been as popular in Europe or South America, as it is today. Is that any less important of an accomplishment than what Ming supposedly did “single-handedly” in Asia and more specifically, China? I don’t think so, especially given that the Dream Team impacted Asia as well. No Dream Team probably means no Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, or Danilo Gallinari, just to name a few, and it could have likely meant no Yao Ming.
Now I won’t completely short-change Yao Ming on the topic. Marketing-wise, he definitely had a global impact. There is no denying that. He made the NBA a lot of money during his short career, and David Stern owes Yao a debt of gratitude for doing so. Make him the official NBA Ambassador to Asia if you want to honor him, but don’t give him a bust.
Saying that Ming almost “single-handedly” expanded NBA basketball’s reach throughout Asia is a bit much. That train of thought assumes that countries like Japan, Korea, and the Philippines— just to name a few — all had a mutual interest in Yao Ming. I would venture to say that LeBron James, D Wade, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant are just as—if not more—popular in those countries.
Yao is—without a shadow of a doubt—a major contributor to the globalization of the game of basketball, but he is partially responsible for the boon in popularity of the game in China, not the entire continent of Asia.
It is OK to honor a man for his part in popularizing the NBA, but I am sorry, enshrinement into basketball’s most hallowed hallways is not one of them.
Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24. Read more of his blogs here.