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”He could've been one of the greatest” — Robert Horry explains Yao Ming missed out on being one of the GOATs

Horry points out Yao was a lot more than a 7'6'' guy. “He shot the technical fouls for that team, no matter who was on the court.”

The NBA has tons of what-if stories. Players who were destined for greatness but failed to live up to the promise due to a confluence of internal and external factors. Yao Ming falls into this category. According to Robert Horry, while Yao was a beast in his prime, the Chinese center could’ve maxed out his potential and been one of the greatest.

A student of the game

Yao was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, which forged his name in the history books as a legend. Looking back, he played only eight seasons in the league, with his last season marred with injuries that forced him to retire.

Robert Horry, who has played with some of the best bigs in history, believes that if Yao had stayed healthy, he would’ve been mentioned alongside Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant.

He was so knowledgeable of the history of basketball, and I think that’s one of the things that never gets talked about, his IQ, because of his lower body wouldn’t have went out, he’d probably be considered one of the greatest because he could play. He was very skilled, very smart,” Horry said per SB Nation.

As Horry noted, Yao’s intelligence extended to the sport’s rich history. In their conversations, the iconic Rockets center would drop players’ names from the past, proof that he has spent countless hours learning about the game.

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He was so big, and he was such a nice guy. I got to know him well, because you know the Rockets organization, and we’d have a conversation, and he’s talking about basketball, and he’s bringing up all these old players, and I’m looking at him like, ‘Yo dude, I thought you didn’t speak English?’ Horry said.

Lethal stroke

Speaking on Yao’s game, Horry pointed out how the Chinese icon wasn’t just 7’6“; he had a deep offensive package that included a smooth stroke. In other words, Yao wasn’t one of those extra tall boys in the gym who were nudged into playing basketball. The man had talent.

People don’t understand how big he was and how strong and the fact that he wasn’t just gonna bully you. He was just like ‘I’m gonna shoot this turn-around jumper.’ He was so skilled. He shot the technical fouls for that team, no matter who was on the court. That’s how good he was,” Horry said.

Let’s not forget that Yao played in an era where the league was stacked with talented bigs. Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Ben Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Jermaine O’Neal, and Kevin Garnett were just some of the players Yao matched up with. If you enter a room full of NBA fans and scream that Yao is better than all of them, a handful would shake your hand in agreement. 

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