Yao Ming was far more than just another talented prospect when the Houston Rockets made him the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft.
The 7-6 center from Shanghai was a bridge for the NBA to make inroads into China and was a key player in the globalization of the game.
Now the former eight-time All-Star has been selected for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The official announcement will be made Monday at a news conference in Houston preceding the NCAA championship game.
Yao had been nominated and enters the Hall of Fame under a newly created Direct Elect International Committee.
Yao, 35, is largely responsible for the NBA’s massive reach into China and the Far East. Television ratings and merchandise sales exploded there upon Yao’s rise to stardom in the NBA.
As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Yao made a dramatic and celebrated entrance into the league. After rapidly developing into a dominant force, several lower leg and foot issues severely damaged his durability and shortened his career. Yao averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game across parts of eight seasons.
In a career cut short because of chronic injuries – including a third left foot fracture in 2010 –Yao retired in 2011. He was twice voted to the All-NBA second team (2007 and ’09) and three times made the All-NBA third team (2004, ’06 and ’08).