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Yao Right

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Yao Ming was a good basketball player, averaging a very good 19 points and 10 rebounds per game throughout his very good career. Additionally, it was very good of him to inspire a new generation of Chinese basketball fans. He also was a very good person who rarely got angry--or showed any emotion at all for that matter--and made very good commercials (see here ).

The man was good. But “good” shouldn’t get you into the Hall of Fame. “Good” will make you popular. “Good” will get you some very nice compliments. “Good” will make your mom smile and say, “I like that Yao Ming. He seems sweet.” Good, overall, is very good.

But I want great in my Hall of Fame. I don’t care if you’re “good”. Ultimately if your career on the court didn’t amount to anything other than some fond smiles, then you don’t belong where we put the best. Because the best are better than good.

I understand that there have been foreign players inducted in the Hall of Fame with far shakier credentials than Yao Ming. I get that. But that doesn’t make it right. Why should we taint our “illustrious” Hall of Fame with players that weren’t the best, weren’t dominant, and weren’t one of the top players in the league while they played? Why let the mistakes of our past lead our future?

No, I want transcendence. I want the Hall of Fame to have meaning. I want a Hall of Famer to actually be a Hall of Famer.

Don’t get me wrong a Hall of Famer can have a merely good career and still get in--provided he did something of meaning, of substance. Yao Ming supporters point to Bill Walton, who averaged a career 13 points per game. But they don’t understand that 1977 season, that season when Bill Walton was the man on a championship winning team. He was their point scorer, their rim protector, their fast break starter, their everything. He was it.

He was transcendent.

Yao? Yao had a three year peak where he averaged a combined 23.1 points per game and he missed 86 games at the “pinnacle” of his career. During these three years, his team would never make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, he rebounded, defended the rim, and passed the ball at a very average rate.

He, unlike Bill Walton, was not transcendent.

Perhaps, my favorite part of the entire Yao Ming love-fest is hearing the compliments that people think help the man’s Hall of Fame case. He was the best oversized big man ever. He was the best shooting big man ever. He could have been one of the best ever.

Am I the only one who thinks these sound like back handed compliments? Never do they state that he was one of the most dominant big men to ever play the game. Never do they say he was one of the best players in the league during his tenure. Rather, they title him as “the best” in specific categories (oversized giant, shooting centers) that ultimately don’t mean a thing in the overall landscape of the league.

If that’s the case, let’s put Nate Robinson and Spud Webb in the Hall of Fame for being the best undersized players ever. Let’s put Hedo Turkoglu in the Hall of Fame for being one of the best ever despite not being able to jump (don’t believe me look here ). Let’s find some player with all the God-given talent in the world and claim that they could have been one of the best and then put them in the Hall of Fame.

Except it doesn’t work that way.

At least, it doesn’t unless your name is Yao Ming, in which case everyone seems to think “good” is great.

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