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Jeff Van Gundy: Yao is a Hall of Famer

Jul 10, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

There’s going to be a lot of debate in the coming years, now that Yao Ming is retired, about whether or not he’s a Hall of Famer. It’s going to be one of the more interesting debates about the Hall, which always makes for tense discussions. Yao after all led a basketball revolution in China, opening up billions of dollars in available revenue to the league in the Asian nation (which of course the owners have still somehow managed to turn into a loss which is the players’ fault, but let’s not go there). He was the best center in the league from approximately 2006-2009 when healthy (Dwight Howard only really rose to prominence in the second half of the 2008-2009 season). He possessed something few big men today have, touch. He was an intelligent defender, a fierce competitor, a franchise player.

He also played basically half a career due to injuries.

So the debate will rage. But his former coach, Jeff Van Gundy, made it clear to the Houston Chronicle that there should be no question. JVG feels that the Dynasty should get in:

“No. 1 to me, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Van Gundy said. “Idon’t care if you put him in as player, as a contributor or put him in with his own heading. This guy definitely gets in for the greatness as a player when healthy or what he did as ambassador.”

He then added a thought he would repeat often.

“People forget,” Van Gundy said, “just how good he was.”

via Van Gundy: Despite short career, Yao is a Hall of Famer | NBA Basketball | – Houston Chronicle.

If Yao does get in, it’s likely it will be on the back of that “contributor” label. No one can deny the cultural impact he had bringing in the Chinese audience, nor his status as a memorable part of the league during his time. But was he one of the all-time greats? He could have been, he just couldn’t. He couldn’t stay on the floor due to injuries which were not the fault of Yao’s conditioning or work ethic. They weren’t exacerbated by his offseason habits or the product of an unhealthy lifestyle. They were just ramifications of his frame being supported by feet which could not.

Is it fair to punish him for that, or to excuse reality because of it? That will have to be the question for the voters to decide whether Yao Ming takes a place in the Hall.

What do you think?

  1. j0esixpack - Jul 10, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    The NBA will put him in as a contributor for the financial doors he opened in the Far East.

    Springfield will also heartily celebrate that a billion Chinese will be inclined to visit the Hall of Fame. There’s no sense in anyone wasting their time arguing he should be in based on the numbers.

    Those numbers are too high for anyone on the Selection Committee to resist. (think about it – in China even if you’re a one in a million kindof person there’s still 1,000 more people exactly like you.)

    • goforthanddie - Jul 10, 2011 at 9:44 PM

      There is the whole cultural thing too.

  2. pete611 - Jul 10, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    If the NBA want to put him in the hall of fame as a contributor to the game it is absolutely their right. However, I think it would be a complete joke and insult to the game to put him in as one of the greatest players of all time.

    There is no doubt that he could have been one of the greatest on the court players, but with all the injuries he had during his career, it never happened.

    It was a big enough joke to have him voted in as the starting center year after year when he barely played.

  3. nagidac - Jul 10, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    Hall of fame in the builder category? No question.

    Hall of fame based on his career? No chance.

  4. trbowman - Jul 10, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    He was an ambassador for the league. That’s nice, but who cares? Guy didn’t have a hall of fame career. Period. End of discussion.

  5. reptar24 - Jul 10, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    4 full years of playing is not hall of fame worthy, last I checked.

  6. boondocksaint224 - Jul 10, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    I agree with everybody that Yao belongs in the HOF as a contributor to the game. The NBA has the greatest international influence of any of the four major US sports. There are great players from France (Parker, Diaw), Spain (the Gasols, Calderon, Fernandez), Argentina (Ginobili, Scola), Germany (Nowitzki), Brazil (Nene, Barbosa, Varejao), Italy (Bargnani, Gallinari), etc…but Yao was the first legit star to come out of China, and he increased the NBA’s popularity incredibly by doing so. For that, he deserves to be recognized.

    As a player, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, he was very much on the path to greatness. But there have been many players on that same path who didn’t quite reach that apex, either. They didn’t get into the hall for their on-court contributions, and neither should Yao. But I don’t think that’s going to be an issue. I believe the voters are generally smart, and will do the right thing when Yao’s time comes.

    • wvan10 - Jul 10, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      Obviously Yao’s career doesn’t make the cut as a player. He just didn’t play long enough to have the career credentials. I would also agree that he could make the Hall as a contributor…..that is, if he actually was one. Yao was a player. Not a coach or a ref, or an innovator. He wasn’t the first player from China to play in the NBA and although he has been the best player to hail from the far east, I can’t see how being the first very good player with a career shortened by injuries from a country should equal a Hall of Fame induction. He is a great ambassador for the game and a Hall of Fame person. That should be enough for all of us.

  7. pookeyguru - Jul 10, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    Not putting Yao Ming in the hall is silly. You might not as well have a Hall if you aren’t putting him in for a contributor. Or, for that matter, who had a similar career to Bill Walton who is in the Hall.

  8. david8726 - Jul 10, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    The fact that he was such a great ambassador for the game, combined with his greatness when he did play, makes him a HoFer in my opinion.

    He crushed everyone when he was healthy, that’s for sure.

  9. polishkingski - Jul 10, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    i would let him in the hof just for his superbowl commercial…..yo…..yao! very funny.

  10. diablito0402 - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    I dont know,, he only averaged i think about 50 games a season,,,

  11. evbrown - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:01 AM

    Whether he makes it to the HOF or not, no one can deny he had a heck of a career. Here’s a pretty good list of his best moments:

  12. jaydan25 - Jul 11, 2011 at 5:02 AM

    contributor to the game how? kobe and T-mac have more sold jerseys in china than yao! so financially i think he wasnt as big an influence as people think and sure he had potential to be a MVP at some point, he was raw with tallent, but if thats the case we could give len bias a HOF place then or adam morrison!

  13. professoressadiesel - Jul 11, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    The Basketball Hall of Fame lets everybody in. Just off the special category of “foreign” player entry alone…Yao is a HOF’er.

    • urodaddy07 - Jul 15, 2011 at 7:59 PM

      There is no argument really. Numbers don’t justify it. I don’t know about this contributor crap. Don’t insult the guys who’ve made it into the HOF. He’s a hood player no more than that.

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