Former Houston Rockets C Yao Ming may become a 2012 HOF recipient as a special contributor.
NBA Hall of Fame President John Doleva said Tuesday that Yao was nominated by a member of the Chinese media and his efforts will be reviewed by an international panel. Yao will be able to surpass the common five year waiting period for retired players.
Yao being nominated as a contributor eliminates the debate that might have followed his nomination as a player hampered by injuries. He would have not been eligible until 2017.
This unusual approach puts Yao on the ballot which is submitted at the end of the year. The ballot then goes through two rounds of voting before the finalists are announced at the 2012 Final Four in New Orleans. The actual ceremony will take place in August at the NBA Hall of Fame site in Springfield, MA.
The Hall defines the category as one who made "significant contributions to the game of basketball."
Yao helped to popularize the game of basketball in his native China and moved the NBA's lucrative business ventures towards his homeland.
He averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in his eight seasons with the Rockets.