Ming, Yao 姚明
September 12, 1980 in Shanghai, China
Jiao Tong University
Houston Rockets, 1st Pick Overall, 2002 NBA Draft
7-6 ; Weight:
The Great Wall of Yao
- NBA (2002-2011)
G - 486
FG% - .524
3PFG% - .200
FT% - .833
Points - 9,247
PPG - 19.0
Rebounds - 4,494
RPG - 9.2
Assists - 769
APG - 1.6
Blocks - 920
BPG - 1.9
Steals - 189
SPG - 0.4
2 x All-NBA Second Team, 3 x All-NBA Third Team, 8 x NBA All-Star, NBA All-Rookie First Team, CBA Finals Champion (2002), CBA Finals MVP (2002), 2002 FIBA World Championship All-Tournament Team, 3 x FIBA Asian Championship MVP
Early Years & CBA
Yao first tried out for the Shanghai Sharks junior team of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) when he was 13 years old, and practiced for 10 hours a day to make the team. After playing with the junior team for four years, Yao joined the senior team of the Sharks at age 17, and averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds a game in his rookie season. However, his next season was cut short when he broke his foot for the second time in his career, which Yao said decreased his jumping ability by four to six inches (10 to 15 cm). The Sharks made the finals of the CBA in Yao’s third season and again the next year, but lost both times to the Bayi Rockets. When Wang Zhizhi left the Bayi Rockets to become the first NBA player from China the following year, the Sharks finally won their first CBA championship. During the playoffs in his final year with Shanghai, Yao averaged 38.9 points and 20.2 rebounds a game, while shooting 76.6% from the field, and made all 21 of his shots during one game in the finals.
Yao was pressured to enter the NBA Draft in 1999 by Li Yaomin, the deputy general manager of the Shanghai Sharks. Li also influenced Yao to sign a contract for Evergreen Sports Inc. to serve as his agent. The agreement entitled Evergreen to 33% of Yao's earnings, but the contract was later determined to be invalid.
When Yao decided to enter the 2002 NBA Draft, a group of advisers was formed that came to be known as "Team Yao". The team consisted of Yao’s negotiator, Erik Zhang; his NBA agent, Bill Duffy; his Chinese agent, Lu Hao; University of Chicago economics professor John Huizinga; and the vice president for marketing at BDA Sports Management, Bill Sanders. Yao was widely predicted to be picked number one overall. However, some teams were concerned about Yao's NBA eligibility due to uncertainty over whether the CBA would let Yao play in the United States.
Shortly after Wang Zhizhi refused to return to China to play for the national team and was subsequently banned from playing for China, the CBA stipulated that Yao would have to return to play for the national team. They also said they would not let him go to the United States unless the Houston Rockets would take him first overall. After assurances from Team Yao that the Rockets would draft Yao with their number one pick, the CBA gave permission on the morning of the draft for Yao to play in the U.S. When the Rockets selected Yao with the first pick of the draft, he became the first international player ever to be selected first overall without having previously played U.S. college basketball.
Yao did not participate in the Rockets' pre-season training camp, instead playing for China in the 2002 FIBA World Championships. Before the season, several commentators, including Bill Simmons and Dick Vitale, predicted that Yao would fail in the NBA, and Charles Barkley said he would "kiss [Kenny Smith's] ass" if Yao scored more than 19 points in one of his rookie-season games. Yao played his first NBA game against the Indiana Pacers, scoring no points and grabbing two rebounds, and scored his first NBA basket against the Denver Nuggets. In his first seven games, he averaged only 14 minutes and 4 points, but on November 17, he scored 20 points on a perfect 9-of-9 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line against the Lakers. Barkley made good on his bet by kissing the buttock of a donkey purchased by Smith for the occasion (Smith's "ass").
In Yao's first game in Miami on December 16, 2002, the Heat passed out 8,000 fortune cookies, an Asian stereotype. Yao was not angry with the promotion because he was not familiar with American stereotypes of Chinese. In an earlier interview in 2000, Yao said he had never seen a fortune cookie in China. He guessed it must have been an American invention.
Before Yao’s first meeting with Shaquille O'Neal on January 17, 2003, O'Neal said, "Tell Yao Ming, Ching chong-yang-wah-ah-soh", prompting accusations of racism. O'Neal denied that his comments were racist, and said he was only joking. Yao also said he believed O'Neal was joking, but he said a lot of Asians would not see the humor. In the game, Yao scored six points and blocked O'Neal twice in the opening minutes, and made a game-sealing dunk with 10 seconds left in overtime. Yao finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks; O'Neal recorded 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 0 blocks.
The NBA began offering All-Star ballots in three languages—English, Spanish and Chinese—for fan voting of the starters for the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. Yao was voted to start for the West over O'Neal, who was coming off three consecutive NBA Finals MVP Awards. Yao received nearly a quarter million more votes than O'Neal, and he became the first rookie to start in the All-Star Game since Grant Hill in 1995.
Yao finished his rookie season averaging 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and was second in the NBA Rookie of the Year Award voting to Amar'e Stoudemire, and a unanimous pick for the NBA All-Rookie First Team selection. He was also voted the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, and won the Laureus Newcomer of the Year award.
After missing only two games out of 246 in his first three years of NBA play, Yao endured an extended period on the inactive list in his fourth season after developing osteomyelitis in the big toe on his left foot, and surgery was performed on the toe on December 18, 2005. Despite missing 21 games while recovering, Yao again had the most fan votes to start the 2006 NBA All-Star Game.
In his fifth season, Yao averaged a career-high 25 points per game.
In 25 games after the All-Star break, Yao averaged 25.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.7% from the field and 87.8% at the free-throw line. His final averages in 57 games were 22.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. It was the first time that he ended the season with a so-called "20/10" average. However, Tracy McGrady played only 47 games in the season, missing time because of back spasms. Yao and McGrady played only 31 games together, and the Rockets did not make the playoffs, winning only 34 games. With only four games left in the season, Yao suffered another injury in a game against the Utah Jazz on April 10, 2006, which left him with a broken bone in his left foot. The injury required six months of rest. Early into his fifth season, Yao was injured again, this time breaking his right knee on December 23, 2006, while attempting to block a shot. Up to that point he had been averaging 26.8 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, and had been mentioned as an MVP candidate. Yao was unable to play in what would have been his fifth All-Star game; he was medically cleared to play on March 4, 2007, after missing 32 games.
Yao advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first and only time in his career in 2009. On November 9, 2007, Yao played against fellow Chinese NBA and Milwaukee Bucks player Yi Jianlian for the first time. The game, which the Rockets won 104–88, was broadcast on 19 networks in China, and was watched by over 200 million people in China alone, making it one of the most-watched NBA games in history. In the 2008 NBA All-Star Game, Yao was once again voted to start at center for the Western Conference. Before the All-Star weekend, the Rockets had won eight straight games, and after the break, they took their win streak to 12 games. On February 26, 2008, however, it was reported that Yao would miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. He missed the 2008 NBA Playoffs, but he did not miss the 2008 Summer Olympics at Beijing, China in August. After Yao's injury, the Rockets stretched their winning streak to 22 games, the second-longest in NBA history. Yao underwent a successful operation on March 3, which placed screws in his foot to strengthen the bone, and recovery time was estimated at four months. Yao's final averages in 55 games were 22.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks a game. The next season, Yao played 77 games, his first full season since the 2004–05 season, and averaged 19.7 points and 9.9 rebounds, while shooting 54.8% from the field, and a career-high 86.6% from the free throw line. Despite McGrady suffering a season-ending injury in February, the Rockets finished with 53 wins and the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Facing the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, Yao finished with 24 points on 9 of 9 shooting in the first game, and the Rockets won 108–81, in Portland. The Rockets won all their games in Houston, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997, and the first time in Yao's career.
The Rockets faced the Lakers in the second round, and Yao scored 28 points, with 8 points in the final four minutes, to lead the Rockets to a 100–92 win in Los Angeles. However, the Rockets lost their next two games, and Yao was diagnosed with a sprained ankle after Game 3. A follow-up test revealed a hairline fracture in his left foot, and he was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs. In reaction, Yao said the injury, which did not require surgery, was "better than last year". However, follow-up analysis has indicated that the injury could be career threatening. The Yao-less Rockets went on to win Game 4 against the Lakers to even the series 2–2. The Rockets eventually lost the series in seven games.
In July 2009, Yao discussed the injury with his doctors, and the Rockets applied for a disabled player exception, an exception to the NBA Salary Cap which grants the injured player's team money to sign a free agent. The Rockets were granted the exception, and used approximately $5.7 million on free agent Trevor Ariza. After weeks of consulting, it was decided that Yao would undergo surgery in order to repair the broken bone in his left foot. He did not play the entire 2009–10 season.
For the 2010–11 season, the Rockets said they would limit Yao to 24 minutes a game, with no plan to play him on back-to-back nights. Their goal was to keep Yao healthy in the long term. On December 16, 2010, it was announced that Yao had developed a stress fracture in his left ankle, related to an older injury, and would miss the rest of the season. In January 2011, he was voted as the Western Conference starting center for the 2011 All-Star Game for the eighth time in nine seasons. Injured All-Stars are usually required to attend the All-Star functions and to be introduced at the game, but Yao was not in Los Angeles because of his rehabilitation schedule after his surgery. Yao's contract with the Rockets expired at the end of the season, and he became a free agent.
On July 20, 2011, Yao announced his retirement from basketball in a press conference in Shanghai. He cited injuries to his foot and ankle, including the third fracture to his left foot sustained near the end of 2010. Reacting to Yao's retirement, NBA commissioner David Stern said Yao was a "bridge between Chinese and American fans" and that he had "a wonderful mixture of talent, dedication, humanitarian aspirations and a sense of humour." Shaquille O'Neal said Yao "was very agile. He could play inside, he could play outside, and if he didn't have those injuries he could've been up there in the top five centers to ever play the game."