Yao Ming: the journey from Shanghai to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame

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Yao Ming is a legendary figure in the game of basketball for a whole host of reasons that extend far beyond the conventional traditions of a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer.

Was he good? Of course he was. He was really, really good. Despite crippling injuries blighting the last few years of his career, which eventually lead to his retirement in 2011, Ming averaged just a shade under a double-double throughout his eight-year tenure in the NBA.

Did he make a profound or lasting impact on the game? Now we're talking.

The Chinese center was selected first in the 2002 draft and he spent his entire career in Texas. The fact that an Asian has gone on to become an eight-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA Second Teamer is something that has never been seen before, certainly, not from a center of his stature either.

"His size... This. Is. A. Big. Man," legendary center Patrick Ewing - himself a 7'0" - recalled when he first saw the 7'6" Ming as an assistant with the Washington Wizards. "Oh my goodness, this man really is huge."

Who he was, where he was from and what he did really made Ming the groundbreaking star he became. He had career-high averages of 25 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks and had an unforgettable first meeting with a fellow 2016 Hall of Fame inductee, Shaquille O'Neal.

Ming would record six blocks that game, including the first three shots O'Neal attempted to take in the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets war.

Upon hearing of Ming's retirement in 2011, O'Neal told NBA TV: "If he didn't have those injuries, he probably would have been up there with the top 5 centers to ever play the game."

When you think about the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and indeed, O'Neal, that really is some legendary billing.

Another seven-footer who was left in awe of the Chinese big man was Brook Lopez, who is also a 7'0" star at the five spot.

"I think that was the smallest that I've ever felt," Lopez recalled. "Going up for the jump ball and then I do my first hook and he blocked it so easily. It was like nothing to him. It was really really a unique experience. I can't compare it to anything else."

We've established that Ming was a very, very big man with a soft touch inside. He's still only 35-years-old and was forced to retire before his 30th birthday.

It's a crying shame he had to go out that way, but Ming is fondly remembered for being the human bridge that established the NBA in Asia and, likewise, helped the growing Asian community in America identify with basketball.

He brought eyes to the game like almost no one had before him. and undoubtedly helped the NBA grow into the global phenomenon it is today.'s Michael Wilbon noted back in December 2010 that approximately 200 million people tuned into China Central Television to see Ming partake in a regular season matchup. Just a straight up league game, not even the playoffs or the finals.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Ming was purely a hit on his home shores, but you'd be wrong.

The monstrous pivot broke the record held by Michael Jordan for the most ever All-Star votes in 2005 when he acquired 2,558,278. To unseat MJ to achievement gives significant credence to just how polarising Ming was, but his character also made him legendary.

It's not often the Shanghai-born giant didn't sport a jovial smile or warm demeanour. He managed to be competitive on the court but carried himself like a gentlemen, too.

There's no question that Ming changed the game of basketball and the perception of it around the world during his eight years in the NBA. Growing demographics and extending the league's reach is stellar work, but make no mistake: Yao Ming is a player deserving of his place in the Hall of Fame if just for his hardwood accomplishments alone.

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