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HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04: Former NBA player and commentator Shaquille O'Neal looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Shaquille O’Neal To Be Inducted Into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame

Shaquille O’Nealnicknamed ‘Shaq,’ will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on Friday night.

Shaquille O’Neal To Be Inducted Into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame

In his incredible 19-year NBA career, Shaq proved to be one of the league’s most charismatic players. The 44-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers center headlines this year’s Hall of Fame class, which also includes former NBA guard Allen Iverson, former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming and current Michigan State men’s coach Tom Izzo, former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, longtime NBA referee Darell Garretson, former coach John McLendon and former players Zelmo Beaty and Cumberland Posey. 

”It means I put in a lot of hard work, and it means a lot to be mentioned with the elites,” O’Neal told reporters. ”It means people were able to appreciate how I played.”

O’Neal’s former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, who retired from the NBA in April after 20 seasons, took to Instagram on Thursday to congratulate Shaq, calling him the most dominant big of all time. Despite fighting with each other a few times when they played for the Lakers, they still won three NBA championships together from 2000-2002.

Dozens of other former and current NBA players have expressed their congratulations to O’Neal over the past week. The former LSU star will be presented at his Hall of Fame induction by four former NBA greats – Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Isaiah Thomas and Alonzo Mourning.

”He dominated in every sense of the word, bringing both a physicality and personality the game had never seen and will likely never see again,” Thomas said. ”Congratulations to a legend, a winner and a true original. It is an honor to escort you into the Hall of Fame.”

O’Neal announced his retirement in 2011 via a video, whose link he posted to his Twitter account.

”I’m already above where I wanted to be – all I needed was to win one championship,” O’Neal said. ”Then I got one, then two, three, then four. The thing about me is that I did it my way.”

In addition to being a player of great imposing physical size, (he stands at 7-foot-1, 325 pounds) Shaq is also remembered as a player with a great sense of humor. During the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, he excited the crowd by dancing with Jabbawockeez during pre-game introductions.

O’Neal provided more laughs during Thursday’s jacket ceremony for the inductees when he pretended to slip before strutting across the stage in his bright orange Hall of Fame jacket. O’Neal also rose from his seat to quickly assist in helping Yao put on his jacket.

O’Neal was selected by the Orlando Magic as the No. 1 overall pick out of LSU in the 1992 NBA Draft.

He and his coach from his time at LSU, Dale Brown, are very close.

“I chose to come to LSU because Coach Brown knew me when I was a nobody and he was always consistent,” O’Neal said.

The center made such a tremendous impact with the Tigers that the university unveiled a giant, 900-pound bronze statue of him in a dunking pose in front of the Tigers’ new basketball practice facility in 2011. Shaq finished as LSU’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,941 career points and ranks second overall in career rebounds with 1,217.

”He’s got so many qualities,” Brown said. ”I never had a problem with him –  well I did one time when he skipped a class. I got him by running him at 5 in the morning. But I can’t wait to see him. He’s a very special man who doesn’t take himself too serious.”

HOUSTON, TEXAS – APRIL 04: Former NBA player and commentator Shaquille O’Neal looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

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Written by Pablo Mena

Writer and assistant editor for usports.org. NY Giants and Rangers fan. Film and TV enthusiast (especially Harry Potter and The Office) and lover of foreign languages and cultures.