I have never had any good things to say about Yao Ming. To me, he has always been a seven-foot-six guy whose never grabbed enough rebounds for his size. He averaged above 10 rebounds per game only two times his entire career (three if you count his 9.9 effort in ’08-’09) even though he had a clear three inches above everyone else. And this without never playing alongside a great rebounding forward. The second leading rebounders of the Yao Ming Era ranged from Tracy McGrady to Kelvin Cato to Louis Scola. It always bothered me that a guy who had to just stand on his toes to dunk could never grab more rebounds than he did.
Yao was never a intimidating presence in the paint. He’d often settle for jumpshots of a baby hook. You’d rarely see him power his opponent down in the post and going up for the two handed slam in his grill. He was always tagged as the “nice guy”.
“There’ll be nights I tell him, ‘Yao, you’ve got to get a tech tonight.’ Do some yelling, do something to get a technical foul so these gusy will start giving you a call. But that’s who he is—such a nice guy. One of these days, I’m going to have to get it out of him.” – Tracy McGrady
He would seem zombie-like at times. You wouldn’t see him screaming at the top of his lungs. That was just the way it is. And it bothered the hell out of me.
And then there’s the amount of blocks. He never averaged more than two blocks a game. He lacked the mobility to be a great post defender. If you search “yao ming blocks” in youtube, you get a real Yao Ming block here and there, but half of the search list is populated by Yao Ming getting blocked. By Nate Robinson. All 5-9 of him.
Everything about him bothered me. He’s 7-6 for Christ’s sake! But then again maybe I’m just jealous.
Maybe it’s because he’s 7-6 and that’s why I’ve never had many good things to say about him. 7 footers a like freaks of nature. And they always seem to be clumsy. Manute Bol. Shaq. Gheorge Muresan. Yao Ming. They just were all so easy to make fun of.
But the funny thing is that, nowadays, people know Yao Ming not for his basketball career, but because of this:
Yao Ming became an internet inside joke (or what you would call a meme, which are pronounced meem not meme as I originally thought it was pronounced) in the summer of 2010. Unfortunate enough, that would also be before Yao’s final season in the NBA. You can now see Yao’s 2009 press-conference all over the internet in rage comics where he represents a misogynist (termed the “Dumb Bitch” version) or expresses a “flippant attitude towards an unworthy remark made by someone else” (termed the “Fuck That” version).
It is sad in a way. Despite never having anything good to say about him, it is a sad way for him to be remembered.
Yao Ming might never have been an aggressive, powerful, screaming giant but he was indeed a peaceful, nimble, elegant one. If you watch his game and if you look past his tendency to seem soft or “too nice”, you will see that he has an efficient set of post moves. He possessed the athleticism most 7 footers lacked, and that made him special in a way. He might have not blocked as much shots as one would expect from someone that tall, but he indeed alter many shots. Opponents were sure to have second thoughts before driving into the lane when Yao Ming was ready to swat their shots away.
Most importantly Yao Ming was an ambassador. Sure, Wang Zhizhi was the first chinese player to play in the NBA, but he didn’t even come close to having the same amount of impact on chinese basketball as Yao Ming. Yao Ming put China on the basketball map. Kids in china played basketball because of Yao Ming (even though most wanted to be Kobe more than Yao, because let’s face it, not everyone is 7 foot 6) . Yao Ming bridged the gap between the NBA and China and his path over to the NBA wasn’t exactly smooth. He was tagged as the nation’s basketball gem since birth.
If you ask me about Yao Ming, I won’t have many good things to say about his game. I never really liked his game and I don’t think that will change. But I certainly don’t want him to be remembered as an inside joke for the people of the internet. I just want him to be remembered as a basketball player who paved the trail for the growth of Asian basketball.
(What Up, Jeremy Lin?)
Oh, and this is just too funny to leave out. No matter how many times you’ve seen it.