Thanks to his stellar career in both China and the US, Yao Ming is a surefire Hall of Famer. But the former center isn’t ready to be inducted just yet.

Ordinarily, NBA players must wait five years after their retirement to be eligible for induction. However, since Yao was nominated by a member of the Chinese media as a “contributor” to the game, he could go in as early as next year. The eight-time All-Star reportedly felt it was too soon to be elected, though, and asked that it be pushed off for a later year.

Yao’s on-the-court achievements, while noteworthy, will always come second to his ambassadorship for the game. He put the sport of basketball on the map in the Asian market. Whenever Yao deems it the right time, basketball fans around the world will undoubtedly cheer him on.

[Associated Press]