So big, in fact, that Shaq had to help Yao put on his official Hall of Fame blazer at Thursday's induction press conference because John Doleva, President of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, wasn't tall enough to reach Yao's shoulders. As one of them, I will do my part to continue to help grow the great game of basketball, and we all look forward to watching the stars of tomorrow emerge and shine.
The younger version of Shaq was an explosive end-to-end force, and even the older iteration was blessed with incredibly quick feet and precise footwork. Stanley Chu traveled from NY hoping to meet Yao.
A friend of Shaq's said Shaq chose to go the amusing route in part as a defense mechanism to avoid getting too emotional.
Yao, the 7-6 Chinese center who was an eight-time National Basketball Association all-star and helped popularize the game in Asia.
As he was introduced to the crowd before his speech, NBATV host Ahmad Rashad said - with the crowd interrupting him with cheers - "Consider the willingness, the tenacity, the toughness to compete at the highest level, the mesmerizing handle, the breathtaking speed...and you will find The Answer". Drawing laughter, O'Neal added, "Hey, they paid me $3 million". More importantly, so many people know how good they are as people.
Iverson, 41, said his induction will be a proud moment for his fans, and all the people that are waiting for A.I.to get a chance to say He did what you never thought he could do.. Nothing can break the bond between us - not even all those elbows you gave me in practice.
Now he takes his place alongside the greats. As a member of the Houston Rockets, he earned All-Rookie honours and would go on to be an eight-time All-Star.
An 11-time All-Star, Iverson averaged 26.7 points and 6.2 assists in his 14-year National Basketball Association career.
This year's NBA stars amassed an incredible 34 All-Star game selections and 11 All-NBA first team nods. So are players (and increasingly gals, such as Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell) whose No. 1 skill is the ability to get to the basket.
Analysts call him a trailblazer for Chinese athletes and fans.
Yao was not the first player from China - that honour belongs to Wang Zhizhi - but he played a huge role in helping popularise the National Basketball Association in his homeland. I am grateful for my time on the court, and for your recognition tonight.
Two years after Yao entered the league, the National Basketball Association became the first American professional sports league to compete in China, where Yao and the Rockets played two preseason games against the Sacramento Kings in Beijing and Shanghai. But Yao stopped him, blocking his first three shots. The 7-foot (2.13-meter) centre again drew all eyes to him during Thursday's jacket ceremony for the inductees. He landed a starring role in a commercial.
"In this profession you have no idea how hard it is to live up to all the expectations, to try to be a ideal man when you know you're not", Iverson said.
In a way, that shot, and that game, is a attractive, sad metaphor for Yao's career. But he's still active in the sport.