Shaq, Yao and AI influenced the NBAl in ways that still reverberate today.
Shaquille O’Neal may be bummed that he couldn’t pull out a W at WWE’s Wrestlemania over the weekend, but he’s got plenty to smile about regardless. Today he was announced as one of the 2016 inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, along with Allen Iverson and Yao Ming.
This year’s class had a huge impact on the game of basketball, but arguably an even bigger one off the court. Shaquille O’Neal forced the NBA to change the construction of its backboards and hoops because he kept breaking them. Allen Iverson prompted the NBA to introduce a fairly strict dress code. Yao Ming hooked the biggest nation in the world onto the NBA, and the league is still figuring out exactly how big those checks are going to be. These guys were game changers in more ways than one, and each held their own unique brand of charisma.
While Shaq was the only player among the three to win a championship (he has won four), all three were absolute forces of nature. AI will go down as one of the best score-first point guards of all time, Shaq was an unstoppable monster in the post and Yao showed deft touch for a guy who’s 7’6”, but was sidelined too often by injuries.
Let’s not forget Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson were among the earliest rapping NBA players, or that a very out-of-context press conference clip from AI became one of the first sports memes. Yao wouldn’t be left out either, becoming a meme himself after he retired.
Give it up for these three, especially if you were lucky enough to watch them play in their primes. Either way, check out the NBA's selection of each of their highlights below and bask in the glory. The enshrinement ceremony will take place September 8-10 in Springfield, MA.