Basketball Hall of Fame 2016 Class

Basketball Hall Of Fame 2016 Class: NBA Stars Iverson And Shaq Headline Inductees

On Friday night, the Basketball Hall of Fame 2016 class will officially be enshrined in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will be the site of the latest annual enshrinement. Among the newest inductees will be two of the NBA’s all-time greats. Former NBA MVPs Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson will both be honored, among other stars from the hoops world.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the class of 2016 will also include Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, former NBA star Yao Ming, former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, former NAIA coach John McClendon, and NBA executive Jerry Reinsdorf. There will also be several posthumous inductions. Among them are former NBA referee Darrell Garretson and American Basketball Association (ABA) star Zelmo Beaty.

Shaq with Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant
NBA center Shaquille O’Neal stands next to his Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant during a game.

O’Neal and Iverson headline the inductees, though. They were fierce competitors in the league on opposite sides of the size spectrum. One was a dominant big man down low, known for his ferocious dunks and imposing defense in the lane. The other was a point guard who was small in stature, but large in terms of skills. The two saw intersecting paths in the NBA, as they would meet in the NBA Finals one year.

Shaq, who came into the league with the Orlando Magic in 1992, would go on to win the NBA MVP Award in 2000 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was with that team that he captured four NBA championships and won three NBA Finals MVP Awards. At over seven-feet tall, he towered over his competition.

Iverson entered the league in 1996 with the Philadelphia 76ers. He would go on to earn the MVP Award a year after Shaq won his. In that season, the 76ers star guided his team to a rare Finals appearance against O’Neal and the Lakers.

During Thursday’s jacket ceremony, Shaq commented on his former competitor and fellow inductee.

“He had a lot of heart. We’re similar in the aspect that we did it our way. I was only going to do it my way. He did it his way. Cultural icon. A lot of things were implemented because of his style — with the dress code — and the way he wears chains and big tattoos and all that stuff. He made it cool for that to happen.”

Allen Iverson, who was just six-feet tall and 165 pounds, was able to dominate the game like no other player his size. He averaged 26.7 career points per game. He also became one of the main faces of the professional basketball league during Michael Jordan’s absence. As Shaq mentioned, he also helped integrate a newer fanbase and type of culture into the league.

NBA Star Allen Iverson in 2009
Allen Iverson on the 76ers court in Philadelphia, 2009. [Image by Kevin Burkette via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0]

Iverson, who ESPN reported was a bit late to Thursday’s jacket event, was asked who or what provided him motivation during his time in the league. He would credit all of his teammates and coaches, as most do, but added to that.

“Even the ones that were negative in my career, obviously to try and prove them wrong,” was part of his motivation, the former 76ers star said.

Both O’Neal and Iverson played for multiple teams during their time in the NBA. O’Neal captured championships not only with the Lakers, but also one as a member of the Miami Heat. Iverson never won an NBA title, but his resume was impressive throughout his career. In addition to his NBA MVP Award, he was in the NBA All-Star Game 11 times, was a four-time scoring champion, three-time steals leader, and a three-time All-NBA First Team member.

They are just two of Friday’s inductees, but two of the biggest from the game. These two former NBA players will always look awkward when standing side-by-side, due to their respective heights. However, there is no arguing that their contributions have been equally large to the game of basketball.

The Basketball Hall of Fame 2016 class gets officially inducted on Friday night. There will be NBA TV coverage starting as early as 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The official enshrinement ceremony begins at 7:30 p.m. ET. Viewers will be able to watch all of the coverage live streaming online via the website.

[Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]