Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com reports that the Chinese Basketball Association and the Chinese media plan to nominate Yao for the NBA Hall of Fame class of 2012, not as a player but in the "contributor" category.
Entry as a player would require Yao to serve the five-year waiting period, meaning he would be ineligible until 2017, but entry as a contributor carries no such restrictions.
The league defines one worthy of induction as a contributor as someone who has made "significant contributions to the game of basketball" as interpreted by two induction committees.
While Yao's case for enshrinement as a player is a strong one as well, his contributions to the game are undeniable. His entry into the NBA as the league's first Chinese player in 2002 opened up new frontiers for foreign players and greatly increased the league's exposure and popularity abroad.
If Yao is nominated this year, his case will go through two rounds of voting before the official Class of 2012 is announced at the Final Four in April.