Kai Sotto V.S. Yao Ming; Who’s Better At Age 20

Are my eyes deceiving me? Kai Sotto and the Hall-of-Famer Yao Ming in the same sentence? Yes indeed! We all remember how great Yao Ming was during his time in the NBA. The Houston Rockets legend could have been one of the best centers in history if only he was not constantly plagued with injuries.

Even with a bad knee, he still faired well with other bigs such as Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, and more. To those who do not know, Yao Ming was the first overall pick in 2002 and was selected as an All-Star each year throughout his 8-year tenure in the NBA.

On the other hand, a top 100 draft prospect, Kai Sotto, is making moves to be able to step on the NBA hardwood. The 20-year-old Filipino has a similar frame (height and wingspan) to the Chinese legend, Yao Ming. But, if the two Asian stars are of the same age, who is actually better – Kai Sotto or Yao Ming? Let’s find out!

Kai Sotto V.S. Yao Ming (Individual Performance)

Kai Sotto Scouting Report

  • Sotto is a 7-foot-2 center who is pretty good on both sides of the ball. He can score in the paint and on the perimeter while also being a scary rim protector.
  • He has great ball-handling skills, footwork, and shooting skills, which is a perfect combination for a big man.
Photo Courtesy of Rappler
  • But, Sotto’s downside is that he is very raw. He’s a thin center who also looks to be moving slowly in the transition. Because of that, he tends to be passive on the offense.
  • As for his body, he lacks the strength to match stronger centers in the league. He also lacks court vision, which is very important in team plays.

Kai Sotto Professional Career

  • The 20-year-old athlete from the Philippines took his first attempt at the professional scene with the NBA G-League Ignite team. But, due to the pandemic’s restrictions, Kai and Ignite decided to part ways.
Kai Sotto in G League Ignite
Photo Courtesy of Sporting News
  • Sotto came back to the Philippines but decided to play for the Adelaide 36ers shortly thereafter. Although he played limited minutes, he had a pretty decent run in the NBL which caught the eyes of some NBA scouts.

Achievements at the age of 20:

  • NBL Fans MVP (2022)
  • 2017 SEABA Under-16 Championship Gold Medal
  • 2017 FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship Mythical First Team
  • 2016 UAAP Season 79 Juniors Rookie of the Year
  • 2017 UAAP Season 80 Juniors Mythical Five
  • 2017 UAAP Season 80 Juniors Finals MVP
  • 2018 UAAP Season 81 Juniors MVP
  • 2018 UAAP Season 81 Juniors Mythical Five

Yao Ming Scouting Report

  • Yao is a 7-foot-5 center with excellent footwork. In addition to that, he is also quick on his feet and surprisingly agile.
  • With his towering height and long wingspan, there is almost no possible way of stopping this guy from scoring when he gets close to the basket.



Photo Courtesy of yicaigloba.com
  • Not only can he score, but he also has a great feel for blocking and altering shots. What’s even more likable about Yao is his great jumpers and terrific hook shots.
  • Not to mention, he is very reliable on the charity stripe (shooting 80% per game) which is rare for centers during that era.

  • Meanwhile, his skinny and frail body looked like it can’t handle the big men of the NBA.
  • Before committing to the draft, Yao played for the Shanghai Sharks in China Basketball Association (CBA), where his best opponent was the first Chinese to be drafted in NBA, Wang Zhizhi.
  • Another thing is, that Yao Ming already has knee and foot problems because of an injury that led to him losing a lot of athleticism and jumping ability.

Yao Ming’s Professional Career

  • Before coming into the NBA, Yao was already making a name for himself in China and the CBA.
  • He played for the Shanghai Sharks for 4 years (1997-2002) and averaged 23.4 points, 15.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 3.4 blocks per game.
  • He also holds the record for most blocks in a game, with 13 blocks.

Yao Ming’s Achievements at the age of 20:

  • Made the CBA Finals two years in a row (1999-2000, 2000-2001)
  • Member of the Chinese National Team in the 2000 Summer Olympics

Kai Sotto V.S. Yao Ming (Similarities and Differences)


  • Both Kai and Yao are Asians who are hailed as stars in their respective countries. They both represented their country on the International scene and played professional ball before coming to the NBA.
  • They’re both unorthodox centers (not the traditional ones) because of their footwork, ball-handling, and the feel for shooting the ball.
  • And, both of them are being surrounded by a lot of buzzes and are already turning heads before getting drafted.


  • Although Kai Sotto has more accolades than Yao, the Chinese center is still a better athlete. He had better competition and better averages than Kai ever had in his career.
  • Furthermore, Yao was already a bona fide superstar in China at a very young age. One more thing is, that Yao Ming was already considered a top draft prospect in 199 (3 years before getting drafted).

So, Who’s Actually Better?

  • Even if we don’t look at how Yao Ming’s career skyrocketed (pun intended) with the Rockets, Yao is still the better overall player. He was already injury-prone but he still was a force to reckon with.
  • At the age of 20, Yao was already a legitimate superstar and was perfectly prepared for the NBA. No offense to Kai since he also has a lot of potentials ahead of him, but skill-wise, Yao takes this one home easily.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. For more content, stay with us, here at Spiel Times.

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