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Shaq goes into the Basketball Hall of Fame

Shaquille O'Neal reacts during the 2016 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall Friday.
(Jim Rogash / Getty Images)

When Shaquille O’Neal was 10 years old, his father made a prediction.

Friday night when his son became a Hall of Famer, it was realized.

Shaq and Allen Iverson headlined the 10-member Class of 2016 enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. One of the most star-packed classes in recent memory, it also featured international star Yao Ming, WNBA great Sheryl Swoopes, coach Tom Izzo, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf, an architect in the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls championship teams of the 1990s.

“If I know my father, he’s up there arguing with Wilt [Chamberlain] that his son is the best big man in the game,” Shaq said.

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Posthumous honorees were: 27-year NBA referee Darell Garretson; John McLendon, the first African American coach in a professional league; Zelmo Beaty, the former NBA and ABA star who led Prairie View to an NAIA title in 1962; and Cumberland Posey, who is also a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

O’Neal was an instant box office draw during his career because of his mammoth frame and rim-shaking dunks. But he also exhibited a personality that was as playful as it was engaging. He showed off all of it on Friday.

His speech had serious moments, like thanking his parents for giving him the discipline and drive that drove his NBA dream.

But he also tossed in light moments. He thanked former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant for helping him win three NBA titles, “but also for getting me pushed off the team and traded to Miami.”

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Iverson, listed generously at 6 feet 1, attacked the basket throughout his career. Fighting tears for most of his speech, the former MVP said, “Thank God for loving me and blessing me to be the man that I am and having no regrets for the man that I am. A man that my family loves, my teammates love and my fans love.”

The 7-foot-6 Yao’s arrival from China to the NBA in 2002 instantly helped bring the game to a broader international audience. He was Friday’s first inductee, an honor he joked that should have gone to Iverson.

“You know why? Because I need more practice than him,” Yao said to applause from the crowd and a laugh from Iverson.


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