Yao, who retired in July, was nominated by a member of the Chinese media as a contributor to the game, and would have been eligible for induction as early as 2012. But Hall of Fame president and CEO John Doleva said Yao’s agent, John Huizinga, called Wednesday morning to request that Yao’s nomination be tabled for now.
KRIV-TV first reported the request. Huizinga did not immediately return a phone message.
Doleva said Huizinga told him that Yao believes it’s too soon for him to be placed on the ballot.
“He (Huizinga) indicated that Yao has great respect for the institution and equal respect for those elected before his consideration,” Doleva said in a phone interview. “He just feels that it’s too soon to be considered as a contributor.”
An eight-time All-Star with the Houston Rockets, Yao’s career was cut short by foot and leg injuries. Yao would be eligible to enter the Hall of Fame as a player in 2017 — five full seasons after his retirement.
He’s more likely, though, to enter as a contributor after bridging the NBA to the Asian market. His charisma, popularity and basketball skills helped spike merchandise sales and prompted record TV ratings for games after the Rockets made him the top overall pick in the 2002 draft. NBA commissioner David Stern called Yao “a transformational player and a testament to the globalization of our game.”
Yao also donated $2 million to set up a foundation to rebuild schools destroyed by the earthquake in Sichuan province in May 2008. He carried the Olympic torch through Tiananmen Square and his country’s flag during the opening ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Doleva said Yao asked for no specific timetable to be reconsidered for induction.
“I got the feeling that he and his people have thought long and hard about this,” Doleva said. “I appreciated the fact that he referenced his respect for the institution, especially for those who’ve been elected.”
Doleva said he’ll wait for Yao to contact the Hall again before the nomination will be put back in play. His credentials will then be considered by an international panel.
“It really, at this point, would be his call,” Doleva said. “The ball is in his court.”