Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson And Yao Ming Headline NBA Hall Of Fame Inductees
A handful of the the most dominant players in NBA history are now going to be immortalized at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Shaq, A.I., And Yao Among 10 Inducted To Hall of Fame
Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, and Yao Ming are the biggest names of the 10 member Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Shaq was perhaps the most physically dominant player in NBA history and made an impact right away in 1992 after being taken first overall by the Orlando Magic out of LSU, where he was the College Player of the Year. With his gargantuan 7’1”, 325-pound frame, O’Neal quickly established himself as a force in the Association. In one of the most dominant rookie season ever, “The Diesel” averaged 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game, winning Rookie of the Year.
Shaq, a man of many nicknames like “Superman”, “The Great Aristotle”, and “Shaq Fu”, said watching movies as a youngster helped motivate him. “In all your karate movies, you’ve got the young karate warrior and he goes all these places and he sees all these masters and he has to take them out,” O’Neal said. “So I was gunning for everybody. I was gunning for all the superstars, I was gunning for all the big guys, because I wanted their spot and that was my motivation.”
The 19-year veteran said he did not plan to add to his nickname resumé other than “Hall of Famer.” Over his career, O’Neal was the NBA MVP in 2000, won four NBA Titles, three with the Lakers (2000-02) and one with the Heat (2006), he was the NBA Finals MVP for all the Lakers’ titles. He was named to the All-NBA First Team eight times, the All-Star game 15 times, and has had two different jerseys retired, number 34 by the Lakers and number 32 by the Heat.
Iverson was one of the most explosive scorers during his 14 year career. The speedy 6’0”, 175-pound shooting guard led the league in scoring (31.1 PPG) in 2001, being named the NBA MVP.
Iverson spent the first 10.5 and his final season in Philadelphia, who drafted first overall in 1996 out Georgetown, where he set the career high mark for points per game (22.9) and won thee Big East Defensive Player of the Year in both of his seasons there.
In the NBA, Iverson won the scoring title in 1999, 2001-02, and 2005, and led the league in steals in 2001-03. He led the 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2001 against O’Neal and the Lakers. Being heavy underdogs, the Sixers stole Game 1 from LA behind Iverson’s 48 points. The game was the only loss of the postseason for the Lakers, who won the next four games.
Talking to the AP Iverson said that he still gets asked by fans about ‘Practice?’ “I’m in the Hall of Fame and I can go outside today and go to a restaurant or whatever and somebody will say to me: `Practice? We talking about practice,”‘ he said with a laugh, adding that even his children mock him for the 2002 news conference in which he repeated the phrase about 20 times. “Man, I am a Hall of Famer and that’s all you can think about – me saying practice.”
Iverson’s career scoring average of 26.7 ranks seventh all-time. His number 3 was retired by Philadelphia on March 1, 2014.
Easily the most controversial selection, Yao Ming was as hard to defend as anyone in the league when he was healthy. At 7’6, 310 pounds, the top pick in 2002 from China towered above giants like Shaq.
In the first matchup between Ming and O’Neal, Yao recorded 3 blocked shots on Shaq in the first three minutes. Yao finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks. O’Neal totaled 31 points and 13 rebounds.
In his four seasons where he played more than 70 games, Yao averaged 17.3 points, 8.8 rebonds, and 1.9 blocks per game. His career was ravaged by injuries beginning in his fourth season in 2005-06. Ming played in 57 games that year and then just 48 and 55 the following two seasons before being healthy for 77 games in 2008-09. During his injury shortened seasons in 2005-08, Ming averaged 23.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, and 1.8 BPG.
Ming retired following another injury shortened season in 2010-11, appearing in only 5 games. Despite his limited playing career, Yao had a monumental impact in bridging the Chinese and American fans of the NBA. In 2005, Yao set a NBA record by receiving 2,558,278 total votes for the All-Star Game.
Among the other inductees is Tom Izzo, the head basketball coach at Michigan State, who has amassed 524 wins in his career with the Spartans and won the title in 2000 and has been in 7 Final Fours.
Sheryl Swoopes was also inducted. Swoopes was the first woman to sign to the WNBA when it formed in 1996. Swoopes was a four time WNBA Champion with the Houston Comets (1997-2000), the WNBA MVP in 2000, 2002, and 2005, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2000, 2002, and 2005, she was also a six time All-Star.
The other nominees are Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, NBA referee Darrell Garretson, coach John McLendon, and former players Zelmo Beatty and Cumberland Posey, who will be enshrined posthumously.