Yao Ming had Bill Simmons surprised as Houston Rockets picked the 7’6 Chinese giant over Jay Williams in the 2002 NBA Draft and said Shaquille O’Neal would dominate him.
Shaquille O’Neal to this date is known as one of the biggest and most unstoppable forces in the NBA. Although he was no less dominant in the 90s, he reached a different level of domination after coming to LA and joining forces with Kobe Bryant.
The 7’1, the 340-pound centre won the Lakers 3x NBA championships and won Finals MVP in 3-straight years at the turn of the century. That made him the undisputed king in the NBA media in those years.
As the 2002 off-season approached, the Draft saw Chinese Big man Yao Ming coming in as the number 1 overall selection by the Houston Rockets. Their obvious plan was to tackle the Shaq situation in the West but Bill Simmons who was an ESPN writer at the time said this about the 7’6 giant from Asia.
“Years from now, we will remember ‘Yao Ming over Jay Williams’ the same way we remember ‘Bowie over Jordan,’ ‘Traylor for Nowitzki,’ ‘Carroll for McHale and Parish,’ ‘Aguirre over Thomas’ and every other great draft day blunder in NBA history. I’m not just predicting it, I’m guaranteeing it.”
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) March 15, 2015
Simmons’ disrespect of Yao Ming will make him eat his words within a year of watching him go against Shaquille O’Neal
Simmons continued with his outrageous take which he’ll soon come to regret as bad as every other journalist who criticized the Rockets for picking up Yao over Jay Williams.
“Can’t you picture Shaq rubbing his hands together and saying, “I’m going to dunk on that Chinese guy as much as humanly possible next season”? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Repeat: This is a disaster waiting to happen. I feel very strongly about this. Just wanted to get that heard before the jury.”
What turned out to happen is nobody in the history or future will give trouble to The Big Aristotle as much as this “Chinese guy”. Yao earned immense respect from the future legend of the game as soon as they matched up for the first time.
“My first impression of Yao was, ‘Who the f**k is this?’ Cuz he came in, and I tried to hit him with a smooth finger roll move… block. Next play, I tried to hit him with the fade-away… block. Next time I tried to come up with a dunk… block,” admitted Shaq.
Yao Ming tricked Shaq 😂 pic.twitter.com/1JccFQHebf
— Joey (@ItsHimjoey) June 19, 2022
He continued, “first guy to block my shot three times in a row. So, he’s definitely the first guy I had to like changed how I played against him, and he’s also the first guy to get it, turn around, look me right in the face and just shoot right over me. So, that’s what I thought of when I first thought of Yao.”
They would play each other 18 times in the NBA, with Yao’s Rockets winning 8 of those encounters. Ming ended up retiring very early playing just 9 years in the league making it to 8x All-Star and 5x All-NBA teams because of a series of ankle injuries.
But those 9-years were enough for him to make Simmons and other journalists swallow their horrendous takes and make it to the NBA Hall of Fame with career averages of over 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Both the big men entered the NBA Hall of Fame together in 2016, and the irony was Shaq was the one who welcomed Yao into the history of books of the game.