On January 17, 2003, a little historical moment was written at the Compaq Center in Houston. The Lakers are in town and the Texan audience witnessed the titans’ very first clash between Shaquille O’Neal and then-rookie Yao Ming.
This face-to-face attracts all the cameras since it pits the best pivot in the world against this young Chinese, number 1 of the previous draft, already promised to upset the hierarchy among the best interiors in the league.
That day, Robert Horry was in the game with the Californians. ” I remember the first time we played against them with Shaq, everyone knew Shaq’s size. We said to each other (seeing Yao): ‘Mash, that motherfucker is bigger than Shaq!’ “, Recalls the seven-time NBA champion for The Road Trippin ‘podcast.
From the top of its 2.16 meters, the “Big Cactus” indeed returned 13 centimeters to its opponent (2.29 meters). Guest on the same podcast, Richard Jefferson also has his own memory of the former Rockets player’s unusual size.
A moment like Boban Marjanovic
In his anecdote, Jefferson begins by quoting this famous video in which Boban Marjanovic (2.24m) passes Anthony Davis (2.08m) for a child, who was trying to steal the ball from him high on a stoppage of play.
According to the former winger, rookie Yao Ming did the same with his Nets teammate Jason Collins. ” Yao Ming catches the rebound, Jason Collins tries to get it back. Yao Ming makes this gesture (wave arm above head) and Jason Collins tries to reach it. Coming back to defense, we were like Jason Kidd and I: ‘My God! ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before. »
« It was 12 years before Boban arrived in the league, continues Richard Jefferson. We had never seen someone this tall, able to do that to a guy that was 2.08 or 2.10 meters. But beyond his size, if Yao Ming shone so much in the league, it is obviously also thanks to his talent.
« People don’t understand how big and strong he was. And the fact that he didn’t just intimidate you, but was able to shoot in a ‘turn around’. He was so good, qualifies Channing Frye on the same podcast. He was shooting technical fouls free throws for this team, no matter who was on the pitch. This is to say how good he was. »
A big basketball culture
Good on the field but also outside to hear Robert Horry, who became a friend of the Chinese over time. Before participating in the treble with the Lakers, the former winger also made his debut in Houston, where he won two titles (1994 and 1995).
« He was so tall and he was such a nice guy. I got to know him well thanks to (our link) the Rockets. I remember a conversation where he was talking basketball and talking about all those former players. And I was looking at him like, ‘Yo man, I thought you didn’t speak English? ‘. Like ‘But how do you know all these former players? ‘He ran into a few players and I said,’ Who the hell is this? I didn’t even know who they were. ‘ »
Robert Horry felt that he had a great basketball connoisseur in front of him and that, moreover, his basketball IQ was rarely put forward. It is for all these reasons that, according to him, Ming would have ” probably been considered one of the greatest »If his body had not let go (foot injuries in particular).
His short career of eight seasons, marked by so many All-Star selections, did not prevent him from being inducted into the Hall of Fame a few years ago.