Is Yao Ming a Hall of Famer? (Or Better than Bill Walton?)

With the retirement of Yao Ming upon us, the question begs to be asked: Is he a Hall of Famer?

A Hall of Famer who Yao seems to compare somewhat with is Bill Walton.

Walton

Yao

6’11  210lbs

7’6  310lbs

Debut 1974

Debut 2002

1st overall pick

1st overall pick

10 seasons

8 seasons

468 games

486 games

If you just look at his numbers below, you would probably say Yao Ming isn’t a Hall of Famer.  However, compare them with Bill Walton’s numbers and you might have to think about it for a minute. (or wonder why Bill Walton is in the top 50 greatest players of all-time)

Career Totals

G

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Yao

486

15818

3380

6445

0.524

2485

2984

0.833

1233

3261

4494

769

189

920

1311

1596

9247

Walton

468

13250

2552

4900

0.521

1111

1683

0.66

1103

3820

4923

1590

380

1034

865

1298

6215

Career Averages

G

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

FT

FTA

FT%

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Yao

486

32.5

7

13.3

0.524

5.1

6.1

0.833

2.5

6.7

9.2

1.6

0.4

1.9

2.7

3.3

19

Walton

468

28.3

5.5

10.5

0.521

2.4

3.6

0.66

2.4

8.2

10.5

3.4

0.8

2.2

2.7

2.8

13.3

OFFENSE:

Yao seems to have an advantage over Walton when it comes to scoring, averaging 19 ppg to Walton’s 13.3.  Yao’s FT% is much higher. It does need to be pointed out that Walton’s FG% is about the same.

yao-ming-hall-of-fameIf you’re familiar with John Hollinger’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating), Yao posted a career 23.0 to Walton’s 20.0. Also needing to be factored into the offensive end is Walton’s clear assist lead (considered by many the greatest passing center that has ever played).

Edge: Slight Edge to Yao Ming – Walton’s assists cuts it close, but Yao at 7’6 with the ball in his hands is very tough to stop.

DEFENSE:

Walton beats Yao in every defensive category.  Yao although very big is also very slow.

Edge: Considerable Edge to Walton – Walton was 1st team All-Defense twice.

OVERALL:

Although Yao is somewhat similar in numbers to Walton, it really isn’t even close. Walton’s two years in 1976-77 and 1977-78 were as great a peak as almost any. Even with a regular season ending injury in 1977-78 (playing only 58 games), he still won the MVP.  In 1976-77 he came in 2nd in the MVP voting.  The closest Yao ever got to winning an MVP was in 2008-09 when he came in 12th.

Walton also won two championships, the first with the Blazers (Finals MVP) and the second with the Celtics. Yao never even made it past the second round.

Verdict:  Walton over Yao, easily.

Now, with all that being said, is Yao a Hall of Famer?

Because the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame looks at more than just an NBA player’s career in the NBA, I would have to say that without a doubt Yao Ming belongs in the Hall of Fame.  He globalized the game of basketball arguably more than anyone not named Michael Jordan. His impact on China has all the big name stars (Durant, Kobe, LeBron) at some point every year heading over there to endorse their shoes and gear (they absolutely love Kobe).

And do I even need to mention the impact he has had on All-Star voting over the years? He was an All Star in all 8 seasons (maybe that will hurt his Hall of Fame case…just kidding).

Now, if the Naismith Hall of Fame were like the NFL’s or MLB’s and really only looked at a player’s career in the given league (in this case the NBA), I would have to say the only thing that could possibly help Yao get in is that from 2002-2009 he scored more points than any center in the NBA.  The only problem with that stat is he didn’t have a ton of competition at the center position. Duncan and Shaq have both aged a lot the last few years while guys like Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez, and Al Horford weren’t relevant back then. Still, beating out Shaq and Duncan (I’m not going to get into the argument on whether Duncan is a PF or C at this stage in his career) is impressive even with their aging, but to me that isn’t enough to justify a Hall of Fame spot.

However, because it is the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and not the NBA Hall of Fame, he will get in.

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