19. Yao Ming: Bigger than Life

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Yao Ming is one of the most influential individuals ever to live in the United States of America. So, how does a 22-year-old Chinese male, born in Shanghai, become an international superstar, who changes the way both cultures look at each other? Ming stands 7'6", which makes him one of the tallest players ever to play the game, but that is not the extent of his power. Ming is tall, and talented.

Ming started his career in China, where he played for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. That was the season when the Sharks won a CBA championship. He was able to negotiate a release from his contract with the Sharks, making him eligible for the National Basketball Association draft in 2002. Ming was one of the most sought-after players ever to come from China, and he was eventually drafted by the Houston Rockets.

Ming found moderate success in the NBA. His size and strength made him a formidable presence. He was so big and talented that he could dominate any game just by being on the court. Ming led the Rockets to the team's first playoff appearance in several years, but his statistical totals were not so impressive. Still, Ming was one of the most popular players in NBA history. The fans loved him, and voted him into the All-Star game eight times.

Ming did create some degree of resentment from other players, most notably Shaquille O'Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers. O'Neal was one of the most dominant players in the game for a brief number of years, and in 2003, Ming outvoted O'Neal in an NBA fan vote by more than 250,000 votes. This angered O'Neal, who vowed to outplay Ming whenever the two giants met on the court.

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