With Yao’s induction into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, I looked back on a piece I wrote back in 2010 regarding the Houston big man. The Mandarin scattered throughout appears because, in an experiment which failed miserably for reasons beyond my control, I had arranged to have the piece translated for wider accessibility.
I touched very briefly on Yao in Episode 104 of the Red94 Podcast, but realized after re-reading the 2010 piece that I had forgotten many interesting details involving his Rockets career. Most notable among these was his utter dominance of former Rocket Dwight Howard in head to head match-ups.
In nine games against Howard, Yao averaged 23.6 points and 10.4 rebounds on 56% shooting, with 2.1 blocks, going 7-2. Howard averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds on 45% shooting, with 1.7 blocks.
The significance wasn’t just that Howard was thought of at the time as the game’s premiere big man, but that, as I explained in the piece, the statistics dispelled the most common misconception regarding Yao. Yao was derided by his critics as soft and incapable of withstanding physical play. In actuality, anyone who actually followed him closely knew that he always played his best against the biggest players – it was the small ball lineups that gave him trouble.