Houston Rockets to retire Yao Ming’s jersey but is he worthy?

I think, as sports fans, we’re getting a little soft.

There was a time when receiving entry into the Hall of Fame or having your jersey retired meant you were among the greatest of all-time, that your contributions to the sport were unrivaled and that the numbers on the back of your sports card were as unprecedented as any who came before you.

I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.

The Houston Rockets announced this week that they will retire Yao Ming’s number.  Now don’t get me wrong, Ming’s contributions off the court are immeasurable.  He was the Rockets’ number one draft pick in 2002.  He was an ambassador for the game in his native China and probably introduced countless of new fans to the NBA.

But he was never what one could call a dominant force on the basketball court.  Isn’t that what having your number retired is all about?

Sure, he finished with career averages of 19 points and nine rebounds per game but in his eight seasons in Houston, rarely did he manage a full one due to injury.   In fact, he only played 486 career games in the NBA and only once did he get his Rockets out of the first round of the playoffs.  He never led the league in anything other than height and was never, in any of his eight seasons, a member of the first-team all-NBA.

The Rockets have retired six numbers, five of which were players: Clyde Drexler, Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy, Rudy Tomjanovich and Hakeem Olajuwon, all of whom were considerably better basketball players than Yao Ming.  Regardless, Ming will now join this dynasty.

In 2011, Yao retired after losing too many battles to the consistently nagging injuries that come with being an insanely large human being.  He did so as the Rockets’ sixth leading scorer in franchise history behind Malone, Murphy, Rudy T, Hakeem and Elvin Hayes whose number Houston has not retired.  Yao’s accomplishments are noteworthy and one day soon Houston will have a ceremony acknowledging them.

But retiring one’s number, or entry into the Hall of Fame, used to be an honor awarded to the greatest and not just the very good.  I’m not sure Yao Ming is that guy.  Maybe I’m wrong.

If Houston wants to recognize Yao for what he did for the franchise both on and off the court, then more power to them and the night they’ll spend celebrating in his honor.  But if they were to simply honor Yao Ming for his contributions on the court, I can’t help but wonder if those warrant hanging his jersey from the rafters.

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35 Replies to “Houston Rockets to retire Yao Ming’s jersey but is he worthy?”

  1. Pingback: Houston Rockets to retire Yao Ming’s jersey but is he worthy? - BallHyped Blog Network, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. I think Yao’s importance to basketball can’t really be underestimated. Sure, for a while he was one of the best centers in the league, and he got hurt so it didn’t last very long. Had he not been hurt maybe he’s an all time great. But he also created one of, if not the largest most obsessed and devoted basketball markets in history. Who else can claim that kind of thing?

    I mean, really, the big deal about Michael Jordan is that yea, he was the best ever, but it was about a lot more then that. Magic and Larry saved basketball but MJ pushed it to a point where it was competitive with all the other pro sports. As an individual he built this sport.

    In China, more people call hoops their #1 sport then live in the United States. There are no typos in that sentence. Suggesting Yao shouldn’t be retired in Houston is on some levels suggesting someone who made himself the Chinese Michael Jordan, as he’s seen by a 6’th of the planet, shouldn’t be recognized for that accomplishment.

    When you say ‘Yao Ming’ in Chinese it literally means ‘famous’. I’m not sure how you can over-rate someone who helped a 6’th of the world fall in love with hoops.

  3. First of all, you’re mixing apples and Mandarin oranges. Having a franchise retire a player’s number doesn’t even come close to being inducted into a major sport’s hall of fame. Be that as it may, Yao Ming’s numbers stack up very nicely with a large % of hall of fame members. 19 and 9 are very respectable no matter how many games were played over the course of 9 seasons. Also, Yao Ming is probably the ONLY player ever to decide that Charles Barkley would kiss some ass. For that alone, his number should be retired. Maybe the bar has been set too low in recent years, but I don’t think you can unring that bell. If Dennis Rodman can be in the hall of fame, then certainly so can Yao Ming.

  4. Yes, Pest, but China’s not retiring his number. Houston is.

    And we can’t just say, well he would have been one of the all-time greats if he hadn’t been riddled with injuries.

    If that’s the case, let’s go ahead and retire Brandon Roy’s jersey right now.

    Look, I get why they’re doing it. I’m just saying, statistically speaking, he ain’t worthy.

  5. Snake…

    Rodman was a key part of several championship teams. He won two defensive player of the year titles. He led the league in rebounding seven years in a row, including one year where I believe he averaged about 19 a game! He was a specialized star and, for quite some time, was the best rebounder in the game.

    He also played twice as long as Yao.

    Sure, he was a head case but don’t let your Celtics-Pistons hatred for him blind you to the fact that Dennis Rodman most definitely Hall of Fame worthy.

  6. Houston can do what they want. It’s their team and their jersey
    Iconic figure who expanded the sport’s fanbase, yes.
    But Hall of Fame, not really.

  7. ” He was an ambassador for the game in his native China and probably introduced countless of new fans to the NBA”.
    Confucius say “money talks and bullshit walks”.
    Peace unto you grasshopper.

  8. Billy B…

    In chatting about this very same topic over drinks with some friends last night, we all came to the conclusion that the basketball Hall of Fame is far more inclusive than that of either the NFL or Major League Baseball.

    That being said, based on his numbers alone, I find it hard to justify Yao getting himself one of those fancy bust thingies, which I don’t think they have in Springfield anyway.

    That’s probably why it’s so easy to get in.

  9. Go fuck yourself. I don’t have any Pistons hatred. Never had. Just Bill Laimbeer. Despite whatever Rodman’s stats say to you, to me he was a one dimensional player. He could rebound. He was on championship teams, but that doesn’t mean that he was a champion. Shit, even Greg Kite had 2 rings. That doesn’t count for anything. What’s happened to you? Do you just write these columns to get a rise out of people? You used to be more relevant? Why should you or anyone else give a flying fuck what the Rockets do or don’t do regarding #11? Who are you trying to be, Bill Plaschke? That would be a poor role model. He’s a totally self-important douche bag. Thanks for letting me vent.

  10. Okay, someone is obviously having a bad hair day.

    (Inside joke between me and Snake considering neither of us have any… nor does Bill Plaschke for that matter).

    I wrote the piece, Snake, as I do with most pieces on this site to yes, incite discussion and perhaps sometimes get a rise out of people.

    Seems like my work is done here.

    Again, your comparisons of Rodman to Kite and Yao are unjustified.

    Rodman was not just one-dimensional. He could also defend, hence his back to back Defensive Player of the Year Awards.

    I challenge you to look at his numbers again.


    He led the league in rebounding for seven straight years, dude. To say he’s questionable, I can buy. To say he was merely a role player on difference championship teams, I can buy that too. To say he was a freakfest, there is no argument.

    But to say he clearly does NOT belong on the Hall with the numbers he put up, well, I have to disagree with you on that one, as does obviously everyone who voted him into the Hall to begin with.

  11. I didn’t say that he didn’t belong in the HOF. I did say that since the bar has been lowered, then if Rodman is in, then so can Yao Ming be in too. And we’re getting off topic because this is supposed to be about retiring a jersey. As for numbers and injuries, according to your standards,I guess we’ll NEVER see Grant Hill in the HOF or see his # retired. A lot of the criteria for the HOF has to be what that player, coach or whatever did to make the game better. Yao Ming certainly did that. Oh, one last thing, I was never a big fan of Yao Ming. I just feel that the guy has certainly contributed big time.

  12. Okay, Snake, let’s say Yao Ming had come from Nebraska or North Dakota or some non-descript place that didn’t boast a population of a billion people.

    Is he in?

  13. Did you just insult people from Nebraska, North Dakota and all non-descript places? Who are you going to trash next, people from West Bumfuck? LOL

  14. Yao played for only eight seasons and barely a full one at that, Snake.

    You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.

    On one hand, you complain we’re lowering our standards by letting certain people into the Hall (by the way, I don’t think Ralph Sampson should be in either) yet you’re telling me, with his relatively average numbers for a prime-time starting center, Yao should be in.

    So which one is it?

    I found an absolutely perfect comparison for you.

    Brad Daugherty also ended his injury-shortened career with… 19 points and 9 rebounds a game and by all accounts was a far better center during his day than was Yao.

    Brad Daugherty is not in the basketball hall of fame nor should he be.

    And I don’t know of anyone from Nebraska or North Dakota that reads the Chump but I’m pretty sure they’d probably agree with their home states being non-descript… and with Yao’s statistics alone not worthy of entry into the Hall.

    After all, they’re sensible people.

  15. OK, its your column, you can have the last word. I don’t give a flying fuck anymore. Fuck Yao Ming. Fuck Dennis Rodman and fuck Bill Plaschke too. Kirk out…

  16. Yo, fellas’ hope everyone is doing well and getting ready for a day of Thanksgiving…which is exactly what Houston is doing for Yao It is clear to me,(and I hope the rest of you), that the HOF criteria is significantly different that what the ROcket’s consider. Perhaps they put moer weight on his off court influence and impact on the game in China. However, as was mentioned earlier, we’re not in China!To even take what Houston is choosing to do, and gravitate to a conversation about qualifyinf for the HOF is worse than ludicrous. Certainly his company of retired Houston jerseys is admirable company to keep, and HOF folks to be sure. I do find it interesting that, (as mentined before), that Elvin Hays still has yet to receive the same recognition and played at a tougher time.
    All that being said, it is what it is. Yao, I salute you and congrats on whatever you did to earn this honor.

  17. I dont believe he did anything at all other than become a average center. No way I would retire his jersey.

  18. ****
    I dont believe he did anything at all other than become a average center. No way I would retire his jersey.

    Come on now. You think it’s average to have half a billion fans or injured or not, average 21/10/2 for your entire career and shoot 54% and 83% from the line? That’s like saying all Grant Hill or T-Mac accomplished was to become an average player. It’s just not true.

    Yao was carrying his team to the finals the last time he was healthy (and destroying the lakers, who did win the title) and while he didn’t play all those years, he was very arguably the best center in the league for a long ass time.

  19. Lol… if you think Rodman getting into the HOF is an example of low standards I bet you’re a lonely man at the singles bar during a dry patch. ;0

  20. Pest…

    Yao’s case raises the interesting question of how injuries affect how we look at a player’s career.

    T-Mac, Hill and Yao all had injury-plagued careers. All three, at least at one point, were great in their own right, although I still think T-Mac and Hill, at the top of their games and healthy, were better than Yao.

    That being said, by the strictest standards, I’m not sure ANY of ’em get in. Grant Hill had his Dukie days and that may give him the nod (remember, it’s not the NBA Hall of Fame). T-Mac carried those Magic teams and was, at one point in his career, arguably the best player in the game (ssshhhh, Kobe fans. I said arguably).

    As we discussed on FB, I understand why Yao is getting his jersey retired. I also understand why he’ll probably get into the Hall.

    But he was never a dominant center. Had he played in a time where the NBA was full of dominant centers, they likely would have eaten his lunch.

    Oh, and by the way, Pest. I know Snake’s wife. And she’s smokin’.

  21. We agree with the Houston Rockets retiring Yao Ming’s jersey. Yao Ming rejuvenated the Rockets. The last person to do so was Hakeem Olajuwon back in the 1987-2000 era. The injuries surely played a major part in Yao Ming not being able to accomplish his highest peak, but sure enough, he at least deserves credit for being one the most accomplished wearing a Rockets jersey. Now, in terms of the actual All-time Hall of Fame, that’s a different story. Yao didn’t quite play enough games to receive this type of recognition.

  22. Surface…

    If that’s the case, then what of Otis Thorpe, Robert Reid, Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell or Mario Elie? Weren’t they each integral in the Rockets’ success?

    Aren’t they accomplished?

  23. Chris

    I for one don’t have a problem with the Rockets’ organization retiring Yao Ming’s jersey ! But the nonsense of his inclusion into the Hall of Fame , isn’t warranted . OK , his career was cut short due to unforeseen injuries , but his stats to my mind certainly doesn’t bear his inclusion . If the adjudicators are basing his nomination upon his influence and that 1 billion plus of his countrymen actually became aware of the NBA , then say it as a fact, and not hide behind the bs as to the greatness of his game.

    Lakers are on a winning streak , yet Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss are still p###ed off at the Buss’ family .

  24. Al…

    What’s most interesting is that Ralph Sampson was recently elected into the basketball Hall of Fame.

    Now clearly, he and Yao have little in common other than the fact that they both played center for the Houston Rockets.

    Yao clearly had a better pro career while Sampson was a phenom in college at the University of Virginia.

    But I don’t think that Sampson would ever have his numbered retired in Houston, yet he’s in the Hall, and most people here are okay with Yao getting his number retired but don’t think he’s hall-worthy.

  25. Chris , when it comes to giving out awards , no one does it more boorishly and more stupidly than here in the US. I believe that if these accolades were voted on , by a players’ peers past and present, rather than a bunch of self-serving a$s wipes (journalists) , then these accolades would have more merit !

    Sampson’s stats as an NBA player were marginal and as you have so rightly said , it was college where he made his name. If anything, that was primarily the reason behind his being enshrined .

    Yao , for the first three years of his career , he was a hell of a player , but once those injuries set in , he possessed the mobility of a male geriatric with ailments all over his body . As a player , I don’t believe that Yao was well-conditioned to begin with . His biggest ailment was plantar-fasciitis , and gimpy knees .

    You already know my views when it comes to a Bucs’ fan , fair weather , best describes the majority of them ! They will shout from the rafters that they support the team but they rarely show up for the home games at the Ray J . (Home game attendances for the Bucs ( 2011 , 2010 , 2009 , 2008 and 2007)

    Mike Holmgren met with Jerry Jones in private , the Cowboys’ owners says fans shouldn’t read anything into it , at all.

    I suppose they discussed Holmgren’s decision to join the Jenny Craig weight loss program , and the potential for Jones to become a spokesperson for “Hair Club For Men” ?

    The Irish , ranked #1 in the AP /BCS rankings . and they next face USC in Southern, Cali,. Upset alert ?

    Tophatal ……..

  26. I say yes, he’s absolutely worthy. Houston was relevant when Hakeem was there and when Yao showed up, they were relevant again – injuries or not… plus he made them known worldwide and not just locally.

  27. Al…

    The Bucs fans who did show up to yesterday’s game saw a good one, but a heartbreaker.

    The Bucs have been in every game this season but in the end, still have five losses, all of which were by seven points or less.

  28. KP…

    Did you just say Houston was “relevant” when Hakeem was there?

    If by relevant, you mean winning back-to-back NBA championships, then yes, I suppose you could say they were relevant.

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