Back in 2003, a phenom from China was introduced to the NBA, as a 7’6’’ center named Yao Ming was drafted first overall. He had the whole country of China on his back and a never seen before hype around him.
That hype was going up, as the matchup between a rookie Yao Ming and 30-year old prime Shaquille O’Neal was set to take the stage for the first time.
It was a duel of two opposites. Yao was a huge and lanky center, with an unbelievable skill set for his size, with a nice touch around the rim and great passing ability. An all-around finesse center. While on the other side you had the biggest powerhouse in the history of the NBA, who would take every player into the rim.
The game and matchup would live up to the hype, as both players gave it their all. Yao showed no fear, as he surprised everybody on the defensive end, keeping Shaq out of the paint and blocking him numerous times, and going at him on the other end.
He was holding his own for a good chunk of the game, but the reigning MVP was getting better as the game went on and started to dominate and play his game. The game ended up going into overtime, where the Rockets would prevail with a 108-104 win.
Yao blocked O’Neal’s first three shots attempts, altered Kobe Bryant’s game-winning attempt at the end of regulation and dunked it with 10.2 seconds left for the biggest basket of the night, giving Houston a 104-100 lead to seal the game, as he was a seeming hero of the game.
They both had good stat lines, but Shaq finished with the better statistical line notching 31 points, 13 rebounds and four assists to Yao’s 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, but it was ultimately Steve Francis who led them with 44 points.
“How should I put it: We beat the Lakers today, but Shaq is still Shaq,” the 7-foot-6 Yao said of the 360-pound O’Neal.“He’s like a truck.”