The NBA’s most influential player from overseas is heading to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The 7-foot-6 center was drafted first overall back in 2002 after completely annihilating the competition in his final year in China. During his last CBA playoff appearance, Yao averaged a nutty 38.9 points and 20.2 rebounds per game, as he was obviously too good to not be playing in the NBA.
It didn’t even take a full season in America for Yao to start in his first NBA All-Star Game. In fact, Yao received nearly a quarter million more votes than Shaquille O’Neal, who was the most dominant center in the league at the time, coming off three NBA Finals MVPs.
Yao would make eight All-Star appearances in eight seasons, averaging 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. But his influence off the court was even greater than what he did on the court.
Not only was Yao a likeable guy to nearly all NBA fans, he singlehandedly brought an entirely new fan base to the sport as the first Chinese star in the league. Basketball grew tremendously in China, where the NBA played two preseason games before the season.
If Yao’s numbers aren’t convincing enough, his impact on the game of basketball certainly makes him an obvious choice.