When I heard that I was speaking first tonight, I thought that someone made a mistake. The first speaker should be the great Allen Iverson. You know why! I need practice more than he does.
First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me this great honor. Your recognition has made tonight a most memorable moment for me. Although perhaps my career ended too soon, for me I treasure each and every moment. I am grateful for my time on the court and for your recognition tonight.
I would like to thank my sponsors.
As you know I am from China, and my journey began there.
My parents were basketball players back in the 1970s. I heard so many great stories about them, about how they played and how good they were. More importantly, so many people know how good they are as people. I am very fortunate to be your son. The gift I had from you was not only height. It was much more. You taught me how to think, how to make decisions. And of course, my soft touch on the free throw line. Which is why I am happy to say I am entering the hall with a career 83% free throw percentage — just a little better than Shaq’s.
My wife Li. We met when we were high school age. You know how much you mean to me. Thank you for being my life partner. Our lovely daughter Amy is a treasure to both of us. We wish she could be here, but she is in her first week of school. And she has to live with the consequences of choosing soccer over basketball.
My basketball journey began on the back of coach Li Zhangmin’s bicycle when he gave me a ride to my very first practice on the basketball court. I would like to congratulate you on a great career as you retire this year. So many kids have benefited from you and your work.
Coach Li Qiuping you were my coach at the Shanghai Sharks. You led us to the CBA championship, and never gave up on us, even when you lost your wife to cancer that year. Thank you for your dedication and your sacrifices to us.
I want to thank the city of Shanghai, the Shanghai Sharks and the CBA league for doing everything they could to prepare me. They raised me, trained me and helped me to be ready for the next challenges in my life.
Finally, to Team Yao. We all look older and fatter than when we first met.
Ladies and gentlemen, I like to pay my respect to Dr. Naismith, to the 361 members of the Hall of Fame, and to everyone who has contributed to the game of basketball all over the world in last 125 years. All of these individuals are stars and together they form the galaxy in the universe of basketball. The game has inspired billions of people around the world. 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.
Thank you for this great honor.