The Impending Debate On Yao Ming, Possible Hall Of Famer
Yao Ming's retirement earlier this week has brought up an interesting question: should the cultural impact that a player has count toward his Hall of Fame consideration?
According to ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, yes, it should.
“No. 1 to me, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Van Gundy said. “I don’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.”
Van Gundy's argument will be one we hear often over the next few years. The 7-foot-6 center's arrival to the United States in 2002 did cause a basketball revolution in China, and helped advance the NBA as arguably the most globally-followed non-soccer league in all of sports.
The problem, however, is that Yao's stats don't necessarily scream "one of the greatest players ever." He averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds over eight NBA seasons. He was also constantly injured, and half of those eight seasons he didn't play in as many as 60 games. In his final season, he played in just five games.
The argument from Van Gundy, of course, is that those numbers might not be enough, but when you combine them with the cultural impact of Yao, it's a deserving resume. He won't be up for induction to the Hall of Fame for another five years, but expect plenty of back and forth on his worthiness before then.