Greatness was celebrated and legendary status was cemented on Friday, Sept. 9 when 10 NBA basketball icons were inducted as members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Sheryl Swoopes, Zelmo Beaty, Jerry Reinsdorf, Darell Garretson, Tom Izzo, John McLendon and Cumberland Posey were the names introduced as NBA immortals.
The most notable names of the evening to basketball fans were undoubtedly O’Neal, Iverson, Ming and Reinsdorf; all people who had an enormous impact on the NBA landscape in the 90s and 2000s.
O’Neal, also known as the “Big Diesel” or “Shaqtus,” is considered one of the most dominant big men of all time. The 7-foot-1-inch 325-pound center utterly manhandled other bigs on his way to four NBA titles, three with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat.
For his career, the Diesel averaged 23.7 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per contest, winning three NBA Finals Most Valuable Player awards, one regular season MVP award and racking up 15 NBA All-Star game nods in the process. During his 19-year career, he played four seasons for the Orlando Magic, eight seasons for the Lakers, four seasons for the Heat and one season each for the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.
Iverson, more commonly known as the “The Answer” to NBAers, is arguably the best player six-feet or under to ever play in the association. He piled up otherworldly stats as the main cog for the Philadelphia 76er teams of the late 90s into the mid 2000s.
He led the league in scoring four different times and won an MVP award in 2001 when he lead the 76ers to the NBA Finals where they would lose to O’Neal’s Lakers. He posted career averages of 26.7 points per game and 6.2 assists per game, earning 11 NBA All-Star game appearances. Iverson played 12 seasons with the 76ers, two seasons with the Denver Nuggets and one year with Detroit Pistons.
Yao, known as the “Great Wall” in NBA circles, has single handedly created a love of basketball in China. An even greater ambassador of the game than a player, the monstrous center was among one of the most popular players to ever put on an NBA uniform.
On the court he was no slouch though, as he averaged 19 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game on his way to eight NBA All-Star games in an injury plagued career. Yao played his entire nine-year career as a member of the Houston Rockets organization.
Reinsdorf, the owner of the Chicago Bulls since 1985, was influential in the Bulls dynasty of the 90s where they won six NBA titles. He brought together the group of Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright to team up with John Paxson and Michael Jordan. Additionally, Reinsdorf brought on a young Phil Jackson to coach a team that would dominate the world of basketball for nearly a decade.
In their own way, each inductee changed the game of basketball for the better. Whether it was their incredible talent on the court, the sideline or in the executive box, every person is now part of basketball’s most distinguished fraternity.