When the Houston Rockets drafted Yao Ming of China last June, I wondered just how good the guy was. The number one pick in the National Basketball Association draft is almost always a sure fire player, but not having seen very much of this guy, I was doubtful.
Well, I was wrong to doubt the Rockets selection skills. After watching him play against the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday night on television, I might even buy tickets to go to a Jazz game just to see this player's first visit to the Delta Center.
It was the first time I have ever seen anyone shoot easily over Shawn Bradley's outstretched hands. At 7'6'' tall, no one has ever been able to do that.
In Yao Ming there is a player, if he keeps his head in the sport instead of concentrating on all the peripherals that have destroyed so many promising rookies, that could rival or surpass some of, or maybe all of the legendary centers that have ever played the game.
Watching him on Thursday night, he obviously has the size, both in weight and height, and he has the moves offensively to be great. As with most rookies he needs to work very hard on his defense, and that worries me a little.
His very size allows him to make up for inadequacies in that area already, but if he does it right he could be unstoppable on both ends of the court.
Probably the thing that impressed me most is that this guy can get 30 points in 33 minutes, shooting 10 for 12 from the field and pulling down 16 rebounds, four of them offensive boards.
I have never been a lover of big centers. I mostly thought that they were who they were because of their size.
My love has always been extended to the undersized centers like Dave Cowens, a Boston Celtic of the 70's who worked his petoot off to be a great center. I also favored Mel Daniels, a consummate gentleman, who with the old Indiana Pacers of the ABA matched Cowen's dedication to the position at a similar size against giants like Artis Gilmore.
But Yao Ming has something special. For the first time in my basketball crazy life, I see something in a first round pick center over 7'2" that leads me to believe we may be watching the growth of a sports legend that will match the image of Ruth, Unitas or Jordan in 30 years or more.
And more interesting to me, I think someone has finally found an answer to Shaq and his power attack. Maybe not in the beginning, because Yao is going to have to learn more, but in time.
This guy could very well make Houston fans forget the Phi Slamma Jamma corp.
Is he the next Wilt or Kareem? Only time and hard work will tell.