The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame has a new set of icons who will be inducted later this year. The 2016 class features some very big names from not just the NBA but the WNBA and college basketball as well. Over the next couple of weeks, Salute Magazine is going to take the time to honor each and every member of this year’s class.
We’ll take a look at each inductees’ career along with some of their best moments. We have to start with the man who is arguably the best and most entertaining player in this class, Shaquille O’Neal.
LSU & DALE BROWN
Shaquille O’Neal first met former LSU head coach Dale Brown at a basketball camp in Germany when he was in the 4th grade. O’Neal credits Brown as the person who had the biggest impact on his basketball career.
Brown kept in touch with O’Neal over the years and managed to recruit him to LSU. He was a McDonald’s All-American out of high school and when he got to LSU, that’s when Shaq was born.
Shaq spent three years at LSU and averaged 21.6 points per game, 13.5 rebounds for game, and 4.6 blocks per game. After being one of the more dominant big men in college basketball history, Shaq decided it was time to move on and take his talents to the next level.
Shaq was the 1st overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 1992. The Magic were able to build a great team around him with players like Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Horace Grant. Shaq was an electrifying center whose size, strength, and athleticism was almost unstoppable.
He was so big and strong that they actually had to add extra support to the rim because he would either bring down the basket or shatter the backboard.
In O’Neal’s last two seasons in Orlando, they made an NBA finals appearance and got swept by the Houston Rockets. The year after that, they won 60 games but lost to MJ and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. Due to differences with the Magic head coach Brian Hill, Shaq became a free agent and signed a seven year, $121 million deal with the Lakers.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
O’Neal continued to be a dominant force for years to come, but it still took him some time to finally get over the hump. The Lakers simply could not get past Karl Malone and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz. Then Michael Jordan retired for the second time and the door was open for the Lakers once they hired Phil Jackson.
With Shaq and Kobe Bryant as center pieces in the triangle offense, they would go on to three-peat from 2000-2002. Shaq was awarded the league’s MVP in 2000 and won all three Finals MVPs during their historic run.
Despite winning all of those titles together, Shaq and Kobe’s relationship became more and more volatile. It did not end well between them to say the least, Shaq even made this freestyle rap video dissing Kobe.
Pat Riley and the Miami Heat made the trade for Shaq by giving up Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first round pick. It’s safe to say that this was another genius move by Pat Riley and when Shaq arrived he did not damper expectations.
He guaranteed he would help bring a championship to Miami but he wasn’t the best player anymore, Dwyane Wade was the star.
The Heat won the title in 2006 after defeating the Dallas Mavericks. Shaq only averaged just over 13 points and 10 rebounds per game but that was enough because of D-Wade’s incredible NBA Finals performance.
SUNS, CAVALIERS AND CELTICS
Shaq had some decent years in Phoenix with Steve Nash and they made the playoffs in both seasons. After that he spent some time in Cleveland and in Boston but by then, he was a shell of himself and his injuries started to catch up to him.
Shaq decided to retire after 19 seasons in the NBA, he finished with four NBA titles, three Finals MVPs, one league MVP and 15 All-Star appearances. It’s safe to say that Shaq is one of the best centers to ever play the game but he wasn’t just a player, he was an entertainer as well.
SHAQ THE ENTERTAINER
One of the biggest reasons why Shaq is an icon is because he had fun over the course of his career while playing basketball. He appeared in movies like Shazaam, He Got Game and Grown Ups 2 , healso released his own rap album. Shaq is currently a TV analyst with Inside the NBA on TNT and he’s been a great addition. To put things in perspective, watch this video of Shaq’s best moments. They will never get old.
Congrats on your induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame Shaq! It is very much well deserved.