DEERFIELD, Ill.—In attendance at Monday night’s Bulls win over Charlotte was Yao Ming, the retired former Houston Rockets center.
The No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, one of Yao’s assistant coaches in Houston was Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau said Tuesday that he met up with Yao, who watched the game in a suite with Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel and soon-to-be NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“He’s doing great. It was great to see him,” Thibodeau said. He’s doing a lot of great things over in China. He’s doing real well.
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Thibodeau, who ate dinner with the 7-foot-5 gentle giant, reflected upon the career of Yao, who is now involved with charity work in his native China, as well as business endeavors, such as a winery.
“He’s a really special guy and he’s really at peace because he was at an MVP level. He started off, I think his first year he was averaging 12 points a game and each year, they weren’t huge jumps, but it was steady improvement, up to the point that he was up to 27 points a game at one point and he was really dominating. I think the fact that he knows that he put everything he had into every day,” explained Thibodeau, who was frequently tasked with Yao's individual workouts as a member of Jeff Van Gundy's coaching staff.
“The commitment that he made to improve and there was a lot of pressure on him, being the No. 1 pick, coming from China and he handled everything beautifully, and it’s the type of person that he is that makes him so special and I’m glad to see that he’s doing so well. But I think he’s real comfortable with his career. Obviously the injury part shortened it so, but he still accomplished a great deal. He had a great career and to me, he’s a Hall of Fame player.”
Yao, who was voted an NBA All-Star eight times, retired after the 2010-11 season with career averages of 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.