Yao Ming's reported retirement from the NBA is especially sad to many NBA fans because the Houston Rockets center's statistics indicate he was truly was at the top of his craft when he was healthy enough to take the court. With his combination of size, strength and skills, Yao was arguably the NBA's best center when healthy. Alas, much like Bill Walton three decades earlier, that was only for a brief spell. His feet just could not withstand the pounding of the NBA game over the long haul.
When healthy, Yao put together some seasons where he could have vaulted himself into MVP consideration if he had stayed on the floor. In 2006/07, Yao peaked, averaging 26.6 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots per 36 minutes, posting a 26.5 PER, a 60.1 true shooting percentage and anchoring one of the league's best defenses on a 52-win team. Unfortunately, he only played 48 games. The next year, his numbers took a bit of a dip before he got hurt again. He had one more great year in 2008/09, averaging 21.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes in 77 games, but injured his foot in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers and played just five games for the rest of his career.
For his career, Yao averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in 486 games in eight seasons, plus the one he missed in 2009/10. He shot 52.4 percent from the field and a remarkable 83.3 percent from the line. It took him a couple years, but when he emerged, he was one heck of a force. Ultimately, though, he played in just 54 games per season due to injury. That will forever be his legacy.