Yao Ming was one of the biggest international superstars in the history of the NBA and still to this day the only Chinese player that made a significant impact in the league. Standing at 7’6 with a 300-pound frame, Yao was truly a towering figure, and even though there were many question marks regarding his ability to perform in the NBA, he soon proved that he is one of the most important skilled big men in the league. Yao was a decent shooter for his size and had exceptional post-up moves that caught many of his defenders off guard. According to his former teammate Rafer Alston he had an undeniable impact on the game and his teammates with his presence and dedication to improve his craft.
In a recent interview for VladTV, Alston talked about multiple things from his personal life and professional career, sharing several cool stories along the way. One of the things he touched upon was his time with the Houston Rockets after he got traded from the Toronto Raptors. Alston joined a playoff team hoping to make the NBA Finals which was a great environment for him at that particular stage of his career.
Alston saw firsthand what made Yao such a great and impactful player because his work ethic and dedication to the game were like no other. He even admits seeing Yao inspired him to work even harder on his game because that was the standard of excellence Yao imposed on the entire team that was hoping to make some noise in the playoffs finally.
Playing with Yao Ming was one of the greatest times of my basketball life from a standpoint that he made you want to get better and go about your job the right way, every day. If practice started at 11, Yao Ming is in the building at 9 working on his game, working on his footwork, working on his free throws, working on his turn around post-up moves. He is already in a full sweat. I always got to the gym at 10, and I thought I was doing something. I’m doing my thing; I’m coming early, I’m working hard, working on my body, working on my jump shot. Yao is already in there in a full sweat, doing his thing.Rafer Alston, via VladTV
When he was drafted in the NBA by the Houston Rockets in 2002, Yao was already one of the biggest stars in the NBA, with Rockets using his public image and fame to their advantage because of huge marketing gains. Alston had a lot of respect for Yao because he would go back to China and play for the National team after an entire NBA season because he felt obligated to promote basketball in China.
Alston also credits Yao for being a great teammate and a loving individual that had a great character. Unlike many players who impose their leadership over the team through dominance, Yao did it more subtly, proving leadership is all about setting up good examples every day.
So when you see that from a perennial All-Star, one of the best big men in the league at the time. He has to play all year around because when he leaves the NBA, he has to go back and play with the Chinese National team. His dedication to the sport, to the game, to his team, was unlike any other. It made me want to do it every single day. I have to credit getting traded and watching Yao every day to make sure I continue to do the right thing at all times. Yao is a phenomenal individual, and not everyone had the chance to see him outside the arena. Yao is a good guy, a funny guy.Rafer Alston, via VladTV
Unfortunately for the Rockets, Yao couldn’t stay healthy, and it always seemed that team should have accomplished more than it did. When Tracy McGrady joined the Rockets, they were a solid team for a few years, even though both of them struggled with injuries. Their most significant chance and probably the best team of that era was in the 2008/09 season when they had a well-rounded team led by Yao Ming. That was also the last season in which Alston stayed with the Rockers after getting traded to another great squad during that time, the Orlando Magic.