Yao takes friendly shot at Shaq at Hall of Fame induction

Sat Sep 10, 2016 12:45am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - Yao Ming, who inspired a generation of NBA fans in his native China, wistfully acknowledged a career that "ended too soon" as he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.

"I treasure each and every moment. I'm grateful for my time on court and for your recognition tonight," Yao said in a speech that was also littered with humorous digs at his fellow inductees.

The towering seven foot, six inch (229 cm) center was joined in the class of 2016 by the likes of center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Allen Iverson.

"My parents were basketball players back to the 1970s," Yao, the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, said at the ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"I'm so fortunate to be your son. The gift I get from you, is not only the height but the way you taught me to think, and to make decisions."

He then joked about how his parents had taught his "soft touch on free throw line" before taking a friendly pot shot at O'Neal, who was notoriously inaccurate from the line during his career.

Yao was not the first player from China -- that honor belongs to Wang Zhizhi -- but he played a huge role in helping popularize the NBA in his homeland.

An eight-times All-Star, he played 486 games over nine years, all with the Houston Rockets, averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds before foot and ankle injuries forced his retirement in 2011.

"We all look older and fatter than when we first met," Yao, 35, joked as he reminisced about his career.   Continued...

 
Sep 09, 2016; Springfield, MA, USA; Yao Ming speaks during the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports