Career years: 2002-2011
Career Stats: 19.0 PPG 9.2 RPG 1.6 APG SPG 1.9 BPG
Teams: Houston Rockets
One of the most important players of this era, Yao Ming made great strides as not only the Rockets center but as an ambassador of the game in terms of international outreach. Ming was the 2002 No. 1 overall pick, coming into the league with as much hype and hoopla as anybody we had ever seen. He started off slow, but by his third year Ming solidified himself as one of the best centers in the game.
Then just as he was entering his prime, he developed osteomyelitis in his big toe that sidelined him for a good portion of his fourth season and later a broken bone in his foot. After that, Yao suffered a broken knee while having his best season yet and the year after had a microfracture in his left foot. When he was healthy, Yao was almost unstoppable and had he been able to stay on the court he might have gone down as one of the best big men ever.