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Winderman: Wait five years? Yao could be in Hall of Fame next year.

Aug 8, 2011, 5:45 PM EDT

Yao Ming Olympics China Getty Images

With his recent retirement, the waiting period officially is under way for Yao Ming.

According to enshrinement guidelines for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, “A player must be fully retired for five years before being eligible for Enshrinement. He/she may then be considered for Enshrinement in the sixth year of retirement.”

Because the Rockets center appeared in five games this past season, that would have him eligible in 2017.

Or perhaps as soon as next year.

No, there will be no special exception when it comes to the required waiting period to be enshrined as a player.

However, there is no such waiting period when it comes to enshrining a “contributor.” And that could create the need for a Beijing-Springfield non-stop as soon as next summer.

John Doleva, the president and CEO of the Hall, took over from here in a Monday conversation, relating a recent conversation with a China-based reporter.

“We got into the conversation about Yao as a contributor, because of what he did to bring the global viewpoint, especially China, into the basketball family and really kind of a lot of other ways really kick-started basketball in China,” Doleva said. “If you’re a contributor, you can be nominated at any time. So that means there’s no waiting period.

“And what was determined by this individual is they actually were going to put together a group in China to nominate Yao as a contributor, so he would be eligible as early as next year.”

Such a move, however, could only come with Yao’s approval.

Doleva said he told the reporter, “You may want to check with Mr. Yao, because he may have a different feeling. And I think they’re still doing that.”

According to Hall bylaws, “A person is eligible for Enshrinement as a contributor at any time for significant contributions to the game of basketball. What constitutes a ‘significant contribution’ shall be determined by the BHOF, its Screening Committee(s) or Honors Committee(s).”

Because of his brief NBA career, Yao currently stands as a borderline candidate for induction as a player. While some also would point to his five seasons with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association, the counter would be the collegiate careers of most domestic NBA candidates.

Yet should Yao enter as a contributor, it might make it easier to bypass the 7-foot-5 center when it comes to his eligibility as a player.

Then again, what Yao accomplished simply through his journey might just get him through both doors.

“At the end of the day,” Doleva said, “what they’re really voting on, is, ‘Is the accomplishments of this candidate worthy of Enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame.’ “

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

  1. zblott - Aug 8, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Yao has no business going in as a player, and there are already nearly twice as many non-players as players (yeah, it’s that lame of a HOF), so you might as well get his induction process rolling awhile.

  2. chargerdillon - Aug 8, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    So Yao is going to become a member of the basketball hall of fame, not because he was truly one of the greatest and belongs, but because he was truly average at basketball but happened to be born 7 feet tall and chinese at the same time.

    If the NBA is seriously looking to embarrass itself to every American fan by pandering to the money they’re making from China, then it’s hard for me not to believe everything about the NBA really is fixed.

    If the strike wasn’t going to hurt the brand enough. The NBA can decide to spit on the great history of the sport and give somebody who doesn’t belong a free pass all in the name of money money money.

    I hope the members of the hall have something to say about it

    • Kurt Helin - Aug 9, 2011 at 10:27 AM

      Just a reminder, this is the international basketball hall of fame, not an NBA hall of fame (there isn’t one, there should be but there isn’t). So contributions to the international game is part of the equation.

      And for the record, when healthy Yao was far above average. For the four years before his injury Yao was the best center on the planet — good defender, good midrange game, very good passer and rebounder. Look at him and Dwight Howard head-to-head, Yao destroyed him.

  3. trbowman - Aug 8, 2011 at 8:45 PM

    I’m sorry, Yao didn’t have a Hall of Fame career.

  4. bcjim - Aug 9, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    Unqualified.
    Next.

  5. billsfanaddict - Aug 9, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    The H.O.F. in springfield is for all leagues of porfessional basketball, not just the nba. College does not compare to Shanghi b/c his acoomplishments in the CBA will hold weight w/voters ((if those accomplishments were worthwhile of course)). Euroleague and ABA players are in their …b/c it isnt for the nba specifically, that is a common misconception.
    OH, & Yao should absolutely be considered the biggest internationally influential contributor to the organized game of basketball since World B Free & Manute Bol popularized it in africa.
    If the HOF was for NBA players only, then probably no hall for him; but that is not the case and if hes not gonna ‘brett favre’ us then i do think he should go in next yr.

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