Yao Ming, the gigantic center who helped popularize basketball in China, will be inducted into this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame class. In honor of this occasion, Yao’s former Houston Rockets teammate and current ESPN analyst Tracy McGrady wrote a piece heaping praise on the soon-to-be Hall of Famer.
McGrady had just won two scoring titles with the Orlando Magic when he was traded to Houston and teamed up with Yao. They played six injury-plagued seasons together before the Chinese legend retired for good in 2011. The Rockets never quite made it over the hump, but despite that, McGrady has nothing but positive things to say about Yao as a player:
“His skills for a man his size were just unbelievable. He could do everything. He could post up, score with either hand, shoot a jumper, he had an array of moves. He could block shots. He passed so well and that’s so rare for a guy his size.
I’d never played with a big man of his caliber. I didn’t know he was that skilled before I came to the Rockets, but then I saw it every day in practice, every day before games, after games. He really put in the work to perfect his craft — he even took our technical foul shots because he was that great of a free throw shooter.”
McGrady also pointed out how popular basketball became in China thanks to Yao. The 7-foot-6 big man’s popularity in his home country made the Rockets, and McGrady, incredibly popular over there as well. As McGrady puts it, “We were their heroes. They didn’t see Michael Jordan play, they saw us. They saw Yao.”
Injuries may have kept Yao from putting up amazing numbers in the NBA, but his impact on the game of basketball is undeniable. T-Mac clearly agrees.