Former Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal encompassed many different personalities during his 19-year career but always remained humble to his upbringings. While born in New Jersey, the individual stops O’Neal went through during his college and professional career shaped him into the legend and icon he has become today.
The 15-time NBA All-Star will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 9, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Joining O’Neal in the 10-man class are the likes of Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, and Tom Izzo, amongst others.
During the ceremony, each recipient is allowed to have certain players or coaches introduce them into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. For many recipients, the person who introduces the player usually holds emotional ties or a lifelong friendship.
O’Neal, the model of the larger than life philosophy, chose to have four Hall-of-Famers introduce him at the ceremony, via Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports:
O’Neal told The Vertical that he has chosen four Hall of Famers – Isiah Thomas, Julius Erving, Bill Russell and Alonzo Mourning – to present him in Friday’s ceremony.
Each player does have certain ties to the four-time NBA champion. Alonzo Mourning and O’Neal were teammates during Miami Heat’s 2005-06 championship season and were involved in many head-to-head contests during their overlapping seasons in the NBA.
Thomas served as a mentor to O’Neal during his career, as the pair shares a deep connection to this day. O’Neal refers to Thomas as ‘coach’ on the NBA TV series, “Open Court”, which displays the opinions past players have on trending topics in the NBA today.
Russell, who was one of O’Neal’s idols entering the NBA, is also a part of the list. In many interviews, the three-time Finals MVP wanted to encompass the defensive presence that Russell had during his illustrious career.
During an interview with Antenna Magazine’s Abe Schwadron, O’Neal referred to Erving as the greatest player in the history of the NBA. O’Neal and Erving have done many broadcasts together, and O’Neal continues to show Erving the upmost respect.
During his extraordinary 19-year career, the former NBA MVP averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.