It’s fitting that the most dominant big-man and most dominant little-man in the NBA during the 2000’s will now be leading the ten-member class that will be inducted into the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 9.
NBA fans were lucky to witness the duo primed against one another in the 2001 NBA finals, when O’Neal’s Lakers defeated Iverson’s 76ers in 5 games. That series included a 48-point performance by the Philadelphia guard in Game 1 of the Finals, handing the Kobe-Shaq led Lakers their only loss of the most dominant postseason run in NBA history, and one of Iverson’s most iconic plays of his career.
Now, the two will be enshrined alongside one another and join other NBA legends of the game in Springfield, Massachusetts.
At seven feet, one inch tall, O’Neal became one of the most dominant — and animated — figures in league history. The former LSU standout would go on to win four NBA titles, three Finals MVP, and one regular-season MVP award in a career that spanned 19 years and saw him playing for six teams (Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland, and Boston).
His time with Los Angeles will be remembered most, where he was paired with Kobe Bryant –currently on his own retirement tour — to form one of the greatest duos in NBA history, winning three consecutive NBA titles before their relationship deteriorated, forcing Shaq to be traded to Miami, where he won his fourth and final NBA ring.
At 6 feet tall, Allen Iverson was, hands down, the best pound-for-pound player in the league throughout his career. His handles and ability to strike to the basket and finish amongst bigger players made him one of the most prolific scorers in the league.
He was named the league’s MVP in 2001, an 11-time All-Star, and the only player 6 ft or shorter in league history to average at least 20 points per game for his career (26.7 ppg).
“It’s just a tribute to everybody else behind the scenes who helped me accomplish what I wanted to accomplish,” Iverson said of being inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Izzo has led a powerhouse program over at Michigan State, leading the University to seven Final Fours, and 524 victories since becoming head coach of the school back in 1995. He led the Spartans to a national championship in 2000, ousting the Florida Gators 89-76.
Yao was an international phenom coming into the league as the Houston Rockets top-pick back in 2002. Unfortunately, his career didn’t fully blossom due to continual foot-injuries, missing 159 out of a possible 164 games in his final two seasons in the NBA.
The Chinese phenom was selected to eight All-Star games and played an integral part in transitioning the league into a global game.
Swoopes became the first player signed by the WNBA when the league was first conceived. She went on to win four WNBA championships and was voted league MVP three times, while becoming an ambassador for the newly created Women’s National Basketball Association during her time in the league.
The Basketball Hall of Fame 2016 class. pic.twitter.com/KlDnv2n6n7
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 4, 2016
A full list of the 10-member Class of 2016 that will be inducted on September 6 follows.
- Zelmo Beaty (player)
- Darrell Garretson (referee)
- Allen Iverson (player)
- Tom Izzo (coach)
- John McLendon (coach)
- Yao Ming (player)
- Shaquille O’Neal (player)
- Cumberland Posey (player)
- Jerry Reinsdorf (owner)
- Sheryl Swoops (player)
[AP Photo/Mark Terrill]