Yao Ming's legacy reaches far beyond his nine years in the NBA. He arrived on the scene as the top pick of the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft, the fifth player taken No. 1 overall by the Rockets, and third 7-footer following Ralph Sampson (1983) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1984).
He finished with career averages of 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds, including two seasons when he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds. He retires sixth in Rockets history in points (9,247) and rebounds (4,494), and trails only Olajuwon in blocks.
From 2002-09 -- the first seven seasons of his career -- no center scored more points than Yao, who also ranked in the top four at the position in rebounds, blocks and field goals.
In his last full season (2008-09), Yao ranked second among centers in scoring (19.7 PPG) and did much of his damage in the post. That season, no player shot a better percentage from the floor on post-up plays (52.9), and his 964 post-up points were the most anyone scored in a single season since the 2005-06 season.
At 7 feet, 6 inches, Yao goes down as the tallest player in Rockets history, and among the tallest to ever play in the NBA along with Gheorghe Muresan (7-7), Manute Bol (7-7) and Shawn Bradley (7-6). In fact, among players listed at 7 feet, 2 inches or taller only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished with a higher career scoring average (24.6).
Yao also was a terrific free throw shooter -- especially for his size. Among players with at least 1,000 free throws made, Yao ranked second among 7-footers in highest free throw percentage (83.3), behind only Dirk Nowitzki's 87.7.
However, injuries cut short his career. He missed 250 of a possible 492 regular-season games in his last six seasons, including the entire 2009-10 campaign. In fact, his eight seasons played (which includes five games he played last season) is tied for the second-fewest of any player taken No. 1 overall in the common era of the draft (1966). Only LaRue Martin, taken by the Trail Blazers in 1972, spent less time in the NBA (four seasons).