On Monday, Shaquille O'Neal joined nine others, including Yao Ming and Allen Iverson, as part of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
O'Neal's 19-year NBA career started in Orlando and concluded in Boston, with head scratching stops in Cleveland and Phoenix, but the 7-footer will always be best remembered for his eight years and three titles in Los Angeles. O'Neal would go on to spend four years in Miami and win a title there, but his best playing days and achievements came with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 15-time All-Star won the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player award and led LA to its first NBA championship in over a decade that same season. On the back of the self-proclaimed "Most Dominant Ever," Kobe Bryant and the Lakers rattled off a three-peat and returned to another NBA Finals in 2004. O'Neal earned NBA Finals MVP honors for all three of his titles in LA, but the 2004 NBA Finals defeat led to the Lakers trading O'Neal to the Miami Heat over the summer.
While in Miami, O'Neal teamed up with Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA championship, though Wade earned MVP honors on that occasion, as O'Neal began to show signs of slowing down. Named to the All-NBA First Team eight times and a three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, O'Neal's impact on the sport and his presence on the court could not be denied.
In fact, the NBA's decision to allow zone defenses and the decision to eradicate the previous Illegal Defense rule and replace it with a three-second lane violation rule had a great deal to do with O'Neal's dominance in one-on-one situations. The rule change came in at the start of the 2001-02 season after the Lakers had won back-to-back titles with O'Neal and the Lakers only losing one game through the entire 2001 NBA playoffs.
When teams failed to figure out ways to stop the big man, even with the rule adjustments, they often resorted to intentionally fouling the powerful center away from the ball, which became known as the "Hack-a-Shaq." To this day, the action is regularly referred as the "Hack-a-Shaq" despite the center's best efforts to divorce himself from that particular part of the game.
At Monday's Lakers practice, news of O'Neal joining the hallowed hall reached current Lakers coach Byron Scott, who played with O'Neal in the big man's first season in Los Angeles and also coached against O'Neal's Lakers in the 2002 NBA Finals.
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"When he was in his prime, he dominated the game," Scott said about O'Neal. "He changed the way the guys looked at post players...when he was real serious, you couldn't stop him. There was nothing you could do. I had that experience in the Finals trying to guard him. There's nothing you can do when he wanted to come out and play and dominate a game."
Scott added, "I think that's what hall of famers are: guys that can just straight up dominate a game at a time and place in their era."
Along with O'Neal, Iverson and Yao, the Class of 2016 consists of Jerry Reinsdorf, Sheryl Swoopes and Tom Izzo. Posthumously, the Hall of Fame will also induct Zelmo Beatty, Darell Garretson, John McLendon and Cumberland Posey as part of the Class of 2016.