Former NBA Champ Nazr Mohammed reveals the exact moment he figured Rockets legend Yao Ming was a tremendous talent, and also reflected upon the 7-foot-6 big man’s career.
Yao Ming was a force of nature. Standing at a whopping 7-foot-6, Ming is one of the tallest players to grace the league. And boy did he do justice to the unfair height advantage he had over his opponents. In the only 8 seasons he played in the league, the Chinese big man named All-Star 8 times, selected on 5 All-NBA teams, averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and almost 2 blocks a game, and was even enshrined in the Hall-Of-Fame 5 years after his retirement.
“The first time I sat down to watch him play a full game, the Rockets were facing Shaq’s Lakers on Christmas Day. Like a lot of people, I came away from that game thinking, “Damn, this guy can ball.” Guys his size generally just aren’t able to move like he could. There was a certain grace about him despite his size.
The natural defense for someone that big is to double him whenever he gets the ball, but Yao was such a good passer that he’d be able to find the open man as soon as you sent the help. He could literally see over the double teams.”
Nazr Mohammed also revealed why Yao Ming was one of the 6 toughest players he ever guarded
Back in 2015, Naz was asked to name the toughest players he ever guarded. Alongside adding Shaquille O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett to that list, Naz also spoke about Yao.
“Your best bet was to try to push him (Yao) as far off the block as you could. But this guy’s lower body strength was just unreal. His legs were like tree trunks — really big tree trunks. Some plays he’d get to the post, plant his roots and then the offense would just run through him. Yao had the skills to play in this league regardless of his height, but it’s to his credit that he utilized his size and skill equally.
He improved more and more as he adjusted to the league’s physicality. He kind of shied away from contact at first, but then he realized exactly how strong he was, which every big guy in the league had hoped would never happen.
Yao’s post-game was smooth, man. He’d face you up and hit the jumper, and he was accurate with both hands on hook shots. A great hook shot is the most important weapon in a post player’s arsenal — and once again, this guy was 7-foot-6. Problems.
He didn’t shoot from three — thank God — but you had to keep track of him from the free-throw line extended because he could make those shots much more frequently than he missed them.
What made him particularly tough to guard is that you couldn’t force him into his weakness because he liked attacking with both hands. Similar to Shaq, he’s a guy who didn’t draw as many fouls as he could have. Being physical was your only defense and his size hurt you as much as you hurt him.
The only thing that stopped Yao from completely dominating were his injuries. If you take those out of the equation, it’s incredible to imagine the kind of legacy he would have left. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to face such a tremendous talent. The hype was so real.”