Jeff Van Gundy: Yao is a Hall of Famer

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There’s going to be a lot of debate in the coming years, now that Yao Ming is retired, about whether or not he’s a Hall of Famer. It’s going to be one of the more interesting debates about the Hall, which always makes for tense discussions. Yao after all led a basketball revolution in China, opening up billions of dollars in available revenue to the league in the Asian nation (which of course the owners have still somehow managed to turn into a loss which is the players’ fault, but let’s not go there). He was the best center in the league from approximately 2006-2009 when healthy (Dwight Howard only really rose to prominence in the second half of the 2008-2009 season). He possessed something few big men today have, touch. He was an intelligent defender, a fierce competitor, a franchise player.

He also played basically half a career due to injuries.

So the debate will rage. But his former coach, Jeff Van Gundy, made it clear to the Houston Chronicle that there should be no question. JVG feels that the Dynasty should get in:

“No. 1 to me, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Van Gundy said. “Idon’t care if you put him in as player, as a contributor or put him in with his own heading. This guy definitely gets in for the greatness as a player when healthy or what he did as ambassador.”

He then added a thought he would repeat often.

“People forget,” Van Gundy said, “just how good he was.”

via Van Gundy: Despite short career, Yao is a Hall of Famer | NBA Basketball | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle.

If Yao does get in, it’s likely it will be on the back of that “contributor” label. No one can deny the cultural impact he had bringing in the Chinese audience, nor his status as a memorable part of the league during his time. But was he one of the all-time greats? He could have been, he just couldn’t. He couldn’t stay on the floor due to injuries which were not the fault of Yao’s conditioning or work ethic. They weren’t exacerbated by his offseason habits or the product of an unhealthy lifestyle. They were just ramifications of his frame being supported by feet which could not.

Is it fair to punish him for that, or to excuse reality because of it? That will have to be the question for the voters to decide whether Yao Ming takes a place in the Hall.

What do you think?