Yao Ming – The Gentle Giant took the NBA to New Heights

Yao Ming – The Gentle Giant. At first glance, it’s easy to see why Yao Ming made it to the NBA – he’s 7 feet 6 inches. But there have been a few 7 ft 6 in centers in the past and how many of them were 8-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA? The answer is – none.

Yao Ming: A Giant on and off the court

This legendary Chinese basketball player has made it to the Hall of Fame not just because of his height, but also due to his skills and great spirit. His career-high per game averages are 25 pts, 2.0 blocks and 10.8 rebounds. Yao is not just another giant, he has become an NBA legend and has changed the way the world used to see NBA. He has taken the game out and beyond the confines of being an American game, across to the most populated country in the world. His contribution to the sport is one chapter in its history that is more than worth going through.

Before Ming played for the Houston Rockets in the NBA he has had been a player for Shanghai Sharks in the CBA, which stands for the Chinese Basketball Association. He is the sole non-American player to date to be leading the NBA in All-Star voting. His contribution to the sport and the spirit of sportsmanship goes beyond the court. He’s not just another 7-6 giant in the court. He has proven his skills and talents and has stood out throughout his journey from playing in the CBA to the NBA.

Hall of Famer Yao Ming

Ming was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2016. The other legendary players who were elected along with him include Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal.

However, Yao became eligible for being inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2012. The gentle giant is so humble that he requested to delay considering his nomination because it was too early. The Hall allowed his request and also left the decision to Yao as to when he thought it was the right time to restart the process.

The Ming Phenomenon – Getting the Chinese to Follow the NBA

With Yao playing for the NBA, not only did his fans from China began following the American version of their CBA, Asian Americans were also inspired to follow the sport more closely. He has also been the first Asian star who was picked first overall. It was also something different and outstanding that an Asian was part of commercials of all the major brands in the U.S., including the likes of Nike, Reebok, Apple, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola.

His overwhelming presence and performance in the NBA also contributed to the increase in awareness about both Asian Americans and Asians for people from other cultures. In other words, he became the face of the eastern world.

Would this parade have happened without Yao Ming?


Yao Ming’s Background

Yao was born in Shanghai, China. Both his parents were former professional basketball players. His father Yao Zhiyuan is 6 feet 7 inches and mother Fang Fengdi 6 feet 3 inches tall. Born as a child with incredible weight, the doctors predicted that he would grow to be around 7 feet 3 inches tall. Playing basketball seemed pre-destined for Ming from the very beginning.

Yao Ming Tries on Basketball

Yao began playing basketball when was just 9. This was when he began attending a junior sports school. At 13 he tried out for the junior team at Shanghai Sharks (CBA). It is said that he would practice for 10 hours daily to be accepted into the team. He played for 4 years with the junior team before joining the seniors.

Playing in the CBA

Even during his rookie session his average was 10 pts and 8 rebounds. But his journey was not a smooth one.

The very next season he suffered a fracture in the foot. This was the second time such a fracture occurred in Yao’s career. His ability to jump suffered, which was decreased by almost half foot.

It was during the Ming’s third season at the Sharks that his team made it to the CBA finals, but lost to the Bayi Rockets. The next year again the team lost to the same team in the finals. But he eventually became part of the winning team the next year.

Ming’s final year at Sharks was a spectacular one. He averaged a staggering 38.9 pt with 20.2 rebound per game. Shooting 76.6% from the field, he was as close to a sure thing as they come. He also made all the 21 shots in a finals game. This was before he moved to the NBA.

Ming in the NBA

If it was not for Li Yaomin (deputy GM, Shanghai Sharks) to force him, Yao Ming wouldn’t have entered the NBA draft and the world wouldn’t have witnessed this magnificent Chinese player shining in basketball’s biggest festival.

Ming’s career stats stand at an average of 19.0 pts, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. He has 9,247 pts, 4,494 rebounds and 920 blocks to his name. He has been part of NBA All-Star team 8 times (2003 to 2009 and 2011), two times All-NBA Second Team, and three times All-NBA Third Team. In 2003 he was part of the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

Sports Illustrated’s Take on Yao Ming

Here’s what SI’s Rohan Nadkarni had to write about Yao:

Yao, of course, wasn’t a flash in the pan. He played seven seasons (not counting his final year in which he played only five games) and was a revelation on the court. His soft touch around the rim. A reliable elbow jumper. His free-throw shooting. The initial mystery surrounding Yao and the lack of flash to his game undersold his ability to dominate in and around the paint.

Off the court, he handled his international megastardom with poise, and like a true NBA superstar, appeared in some chuckle-worthy commercials.

… Yao Ming’s career ended too soon and too abruptly. He was robbed not only of his prime, but of his twilight years, the league paying him back for all he did for it.

Yao Ming Quotations

  • Friendship first, competition second.
  • To me, first and foremost, basketball is a fun sport. It is a hobby, an interest. And second, it is a profession. I feel that I am very fortunate that I can find a professional job that I really, really love.
  • It will take time to adapt, but I think I can handle it.
  • Basketball, in America, is like a culture. It is like a foreigner learning a new language. It is difficult to learn foreign languages and it will also be difficult for me to learn the culture for basketball here.
  • I think I’ll stick to what I’m used to, my principles, and that is team Number 1 and individual Number 2.
  • Every sound in the gym is so fantastic. The screams of the fans, the whistle of the ref, the teammates calling to each other, the sounds of the ball touching the wooden floor, the sneakers touching the floor, and the sounds of the fight, the muscle and the sweat. Oh, and the last one—when the ball goes through the net. Don’t laugh at my sensitivity and romanticism – those sounds really attract me.

See other Yao Ming Quotes

Never Forgot His Roots

Even after become one of the most famous recognizable Chinese athletes having earned name and fame in the NBA, Yao never forgot his roots. At a time when his former club, Shanghai Sharks, was on the verge of shutting down he stepped in to rescue it in 2009. He bought the team which was finding it difficult to survive due to financial troubles.


Yao’s career has been marked with several injury challenges, but he bounced back every time. After having played a staggering 244 of the first 246 games for Houston Rockets, he went on to play not more than 77 games per season. He suffered injuries of the leg, knee and foot throughout the rest of his career. His exceptional height and big frame of 300 lbs is claimed to be the main reason for these injuries. Despite this big challenge, nothing could prevent him from becoming the legend that he is known today to be.

Yao suffered an injury in 2005-2006 NBA season and had to rest for 6 months. This also put his participation in the FIBA World Championship at risk. He surprised everyone by recovering before the tournament started. He averaged 25.3 pt, the highest in the tournament, with 9.0 rebounds which was the 4th overall. China entered the Round of 16, only to be defeated by Greece the finalist. Another fracture, followed by a surgery threatened Yao’s prospects of making it to eh 2008 Summer Olympics. However, he recovered in time to play with his national team. He bounced back from the injury to carry the Olympic Flame. He scored the first basket in the game against the US.

Ming’s Charitable Contributions

Yao has been an active participant in several charity events throughout his career. He has been contributing to the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program. The former basketball player has also been an ardent Special Olympics supporter.

In 2003, Ming hosted a telethon that raised $300,000. The funds were donated for preventing the spread of SARS.

An auction in 2007 helped him raise almost a million dollars. The same year he also played in a charity basketball match for raising funds for underprivileged Chinese children. This match had other legends and celebrities including Baron Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, and even Jackie Chan.

In order to help with the relief work for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake victims Ming donated $2 million. He followed this by creating a foundation that helped in the rebuilding schools.

Ming – The Wildlife Conservationist

Yao is not just a philanthropist he has also shown interest in wildlife conservation. Besides being an ambassador for protecting elephants, he has also been part of rhinoceros conservation programs. After returning to China after his retirement, Ming set out on a mission to fight the huge demand for endangered animal products in his country. He also became an ambassador for WildAid.

The former NBA and CBA legend began campaigning to persuade the Chinese to give up shark-fin soup, a widely popular traditional delicacy in his country. The other celebrities who participated in this “I’m FINished with Fins” campaign included Jackie Chan, Jeremy Lin, and David Beckham. According to estimates, this helped in reducing the number of sharks killed in China for their fins by almost 50%.


With a background in professional basketball-playing in his family and his physical build, it seems natural that Yao Ming chose basketball for his career. However, his rise from the CBA to the NBA, and becoming an 8-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA Team player and Hall of Famer is not ordinary. Ming achieved this while facing crippling physical injuries throughout his NBA years. Enjoying his philanthropic and wildlife-conservation pursuits, he has also proven that he is also a great human being, who cherishes to make the earth a better place for everyone.