Monday , Jul , 11 , 2011 Hoopsvibe

Yao: Hall of Fame Player or Hall of Fame Ambassador?

“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.”

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HoopsVibe’s Very Quick Call: He goes in as an ambassador –or not at all.

It’s tempting to get caught-up and proclaim Yao Ming a Hall of Fame NBA player. After all, Yao is a nice fellow. His numbers were good. And for a very short time, he was the premier center in the NBA.

A pleasant demeanour, good statistics, and a short run as ‘The Man in the Middle’ doesn’t mean Yao deserves basketball’s greatest individual honour –at least as a player.

The crème de la crème of NBA players validate themselves by championships. Rings, more than individual statistics, are the measure of greatness.

This is fair. Unlike Major League Baseball, one NBA player can greatly influence a team. So team success is the best gauge of that player’s impact.

Yao never won a championship. In fact, he never won a playoff round. Not one best-of- seven series.

Some Hall of Fame greats failed to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. Charles Barkley at least made the NBA Finals. Karl Malone and John Stockton twice met Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls in the league’s June extravaganza.

Barkley, Malone, and Stockton were the best at their position for a prolonged period. For instance, Barkley and Malone were Most Valuable Players; Stockton is still the league’s all-time assists leader. Yao, injury or not, has no such achievement on his resume.

The Hall of Fame is exclusive. Coaches, players, fans and journalists shouldn’t have to argue that a player deserves entry. The player’s career should do that.

Yet, since word of his retirement broke, coaches, players, fans, and journalists have been arguing on behalf of Yao the player.

This is the greatest indicator that Yao is not a Hall of Fame player. 

He is, however, a Hall of Fame ambassador, functioning as the bridge between the NBA and the lucrative Chinese market. There’s no disputing Yao’s influence on the business of basketball.

For this, Yao the ambassador should have a place at the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts -just not in the players’ section.

–Oly Sandor.

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