Why Yao Ming Was One of the NBA’s Most Marketable Superstars Ever

by Jeremy Spirogis
Yao Ming during a basketball game

Hall of Fame NBA middle Yao Ming spent 9 years within the NBA. Although he was riddled by accidents for many of his profession, his influence on the NBA might have been the best because the Bulls first drafted Michael Jordan.

The first Chinese celebrity to enter the league, the 7’5″ Yao rose the ranks of the NBA and have become one in every of its most marketable faces. Nearly a decade into his retirement it’s time to look again. 

Yao Ming’s rise to NBA fame

Yao Ming during a basketball game
Yao Ming | Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

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One yr earlier than LeBron James took the NBA by storm, it was all about Yao. Jordan was within the second yr of his transient comeback with the Washington Wizards, however Yao grew to become the face of the worldwide NBA as quickly as he was drafted. Hailing from China, the place basketball was rising more and more well-liked regionally, Yao unlocked a billion-person marketplace for the NBA to feed off of. 

His 13 factors and eight rebounds as a rookie weren’t record-breaking numbers, particularly for his dimension. Although they had been sufficient to indicate the promise of a future star, they won’t have matched his presence within the advertising world.

Every yr that Yao got here again, nonetheless, his recreation regarded slightly higher. 13 factors a recreation grew to become 18 factors by yr three. 18 factors grew to become 25 factors by yr 5. 

Yao Ming’s accidents and retirement

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Yao confirmed all of the promise that got here together with his hype. Just as he was getting into the realm of a celebrity large man whose expertise matched his hype, nonetheless, accidents started to inhibit his capacity to play.

Yao, who solely missed two video games throughout his first three seasons, by no means performed greater than 57 video games within the following years. Paired with celebrity Tracy McGrady, the Rockets struggled to get each on the courtroom on the similar time. 

After coming again with 77 video games in 2009, Yao missed the whole following season with a foot harm and retired after taking part in simply 5 video games within the one after it. Despite these accidents, nonetheless, his worldwide influence and play at his peak made him a surefire Hall of Famer. His picture throughout the NBA, nonetheless, can not go understated. 

Yao Ming’s worldwide picture

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Yao was a celebrity in China earlier than he ever laced up within the NBA. By becoming a member of the premier basketball league on the earth, nonetheless, he grew to become the league’s most marketable participant. Yao was a staple of commercials and print advert campaigns as quickly as he donned the Rockets’ hat on draft evening and by no means regarded again. 

Despite being slightly shy and never but being fluent within the English language, Yao grew to become the go-to spokesperson within the NBA. Many of his advert campaigns, together with an particularly well-liked business that includes baseball legend Yogi Berra, performed upon the tradition shock that got here together with his newfound superstardom.

Yao took an NBA that was already rising abroad and tapped right into a stage of worldwide superstar that even Jordan might have envied on the time. 

McDonald’s, Reebok, Garmin, and several other different firms had been paying Yao some huge cash to pitch their merchandise. In 2010, he was reportedly incomes as a lot as $35 million on endorsements alone, a far higher quantity than his NBA wage. 

Yao Ming’s influence

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When Daryl Morey despatched shockwaves by the NBA together with his feedback within the preseason, China responded by limiting NBA entry inside the nation. The far-reaching influence of this determination could be drawn again to Yao’s presence within the league. Not solely had been the Rockets shedding a loyal fanbase, however the Chinese market grew to like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and several other different superstars. 

Yao may not have the accolades on the courtroom of a number of different Hall of Fame large males, however his influence on the NBA’s worldwide product can’t be understated.

While Vlade Divac, Dirk Nowitzki, Drazen Petrovic, and different European merchandise introduced the European market to the NBA, none had a fraction of the influence that Yao had That influence remains to be being felt today, for higher or worse, because the NBA tries to get again its greatest abroad market. 

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