Does Houston Rockets' Yao Ming deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

This season has not at all gone the way the Houston Rockets expected. Last year, they had the second best record in the Western Conference, easily took care of the Dallas Mavericks, and made a comeback for the ages against the Los Angeles Clippers before losing the series against the Golden State Warriors 4-1.

This year, the team struggled from the get-go, and things only got worse when they fired coach Kevin McHale and J.B. Bickerstaff took over. The team’s chemistry levels have been a major issue and the only offense comes from James Harden and late addition Michael Beasley.

A few days ago, the Rockets were looking at a relatively easy schedule until the end of the regular season, their only two major obstacles being the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Guess what? They won both of those games. The other easier ones? The complete opposite happened. As of now, they are outside of the playoff picture but can still sneak in if they manage to turn things around quick. What does all of this have to do with Yao Ming, you may ask? His induction into the Hall of Fame is probably the only good news that Houston fans have gotten all year.

But this nomination did not come without backlash. Former NBA player and current analyst Jalen Rose is one of the most notable detractors, saying that Yao’s performances throughout his career are not near the level of those of his Hall of Fame counterparts. According to Rose, he “absolutely, positively does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame." His main complaint is the fact that there is an international committee that votes for international players even when they don’t achieve the same levels of productivity. 

Why People Say He Shouldn’t Have Made It

When you compare Yao Ming’s numbers to his playing counterparts in the 2016 Hall of Fame class that are not from ancient times (like Cumberland Posey and Zelmo Beaty) and not from the WNBA (Sheryl Swoopes), they are underwhelming to say the least.

A reason for that is because the two other players are Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal, whom are arguably two of the best to ever play the game. However, these are also rather low averages compared to former inductees. He averaged 19.0 points per game on 52.4% shooting, made 83.3% from the line and got 9.2 rebounds per game. This may seem a lot but in terms of Hall of Fame level production, it isn’t.

He also played in significantly less games than others; while most play over 800, he only appeared in 486. Basically everything about his numbers suggests that he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. That is what has gotten people like Rose so riled up. They argue that there shouldn’t be an international committee that votes in international players separately. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Why They’re All Wrong

First, Rose’s complaint about an international committee is misguided, whether he knows it or not. Yes, there is a separate committee that looks only at international players. But they only suggest international players that should be inducted. The final choice is not theirs; it belongs to a 24-member Honors Committee comprised of Hall of Famers, executives, and media among others. A final list of 12 choices (10 men and 2 women) is given to the Honors Committee, who then vote on whether they believe each person on that list is worthy of a nomination. A minimum of 18 votes from the Honors Committee is required.

Therefore, at least 18 highly qualified people found that Yao Ming was indeed worthy of being inducted. If that is not enough, the Hall of Fame itself explains on its own website that its goal is to honor and celebrate “basketball’s greatest moments and people."

The wording is extremely vague, but he definitely fits into the category. He is the first and probably only notable player from China. He made tons of people who otherwise wouldn’t care about the sport follow basketball avidly. He was a one-of-a-kind center, as he could shoot really well while also operating great down low. Standing 7’6” tall, he was instantly recognizable and helped the game spread internationally arguably as much as the all-time greatests. The list goes on and on. All of these have to count for something.

It is true that his career wasn’t that long and didn’t lead to any postseason success, but just the fact that he could play at that level without completely breaking down at that height is astonishing. That is without considering all that he has done for the sport. He showed an entire country of more than one billion people the beauty of basketball and many of them got instantly hooked.

While definitely more worldwide than football, basketball pales in comparison to the likes of soccer, rugby, and even cricket. Yao Ming helped bridge that gap all by himself. If you are still not convinced that he should have been inducted as a player, he definitely deserves to be inducted as a contributor due to how much he has spread the game.

While his numbers are well below those of other Hall of Famers, Yao Ming definitely deserves his spot. Not only do at least 18 members of the Honors Committee agree with that statement, but also his contributions to the game’s quest to expand all around the world cannot go unnoticed. Thanks to him, hundreds of millions of people now follow basketball, something only the likes of Michael Jordan and few other legendary players can claim as well.  

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