Don't know if you guys caught th highlights of UNC Asheville big man of mythic proportions Kenny George after the Bulldogs took on the Tar Heels Wednesday night, but if you haven't, you need to contact your local YouTube. He goes 7-7, 360, size 28 shoe - meaning that they should probably change the saying from "hung like a horse" to "hung like Kenny George." But that's besides the point.
Gheorghe Muresan, Shawn Bradley, and Manute Bol were tall and thin, stick figures, palm trees. They were ectomorph's. (Muresan was actually listed at 310, but didn't look it.) George doesn't carry his weight as well - he's probably more of an endomorph. And he makes Bradley seem almost nimble and explosive by comparison - well, maybe that's an overstatement, but you get my point: he's not a good athlete. We saw that Wednesday, when 6-9 Tyler Hansbrough faced him up, drove right at him, and flushed in his grill (get used to images like those). He'll play at the next level because you can't teach 7-7, and block a lot of shots (he's leading the nation at 5.3 a game this year), but more than likely, he'll be remembered as a freakishly large man that got dunked on a lot. Nothing personal.
Guys that size simply have a ceiling on their potential because, naturally, they're so sluggish and uncoordinated. It's when you see guys like George that you are reminded just how unique Yao Ming is. His agility and skill level for a man his size is simply unprecedented. Rik Smits was a very good player, and Ralph Sampson would've been a Hall-of-Famer if it weren't for his bad knees, but they were both 7-4. Anyone 7-5 or over? Bol was a terrific shotblocker (second in NBA history on a per-game average at 3.3 a night, trailing only Mark Eaton's 3.5) and a funny guy, that's about it. Muresan, another gregarious guy, went for a 15-10 in '95-96, but only played 6 seasons. Bradley was the laughingstock of the league during his career. He didn't have as much personality as those other two, not as much charm, so people were and continue to be mean to him. Just search his name on YouTube. You'll see titles like "Top 10 Dunks on Shawn Bradley," "Shawn Bradley_NBA Bitch," and "Please Dunk On Me Im Shawn Bradley" by DJ Spic 2 My Lu. He got punched in the face bloody by Walt Williams and bodyslammed by someone named Mark Davis. Nobody had more guys go out of their way to dunk on him than Bradley. He was the most posterized player ever. A humiliating, embarrassing career. Unfortunate because he was such a nice guy, but true.
Yao doesn't have those same problems, really. He's been dunked on before, and we'll always remember the time Nasty Nate Robinson blocked his shot, but moments like that are few and far between, more indicative of his early struggles. He's not really a gamechanger or consistently dominant force, he doesn't rebound or block enough shots, and he's had some fatigue/injury problems. But at the end of the day, he's a 22-10 guy, plus two blocks, a gifted big man with a very strong low-post game, a sweet stroke, and criminally underutilized passing skills. Maybe he's not the player it looked like he was going to become after his rookie year, but he's still extremely impressive. Yao isn't necessarily a transcendent player, period, but he is a transcendent player when you take a second to consider his predecessors.