If '70s babies wanted any more proof that they are getting old, Friday night at the Springfield Symphony Hall, LSU and NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The event begins tonight with the red carpet show at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be covered live on NBA-TV and NBA.com.
We all watched Shaq grow up as one of the larger-than-life figures in our early travels through our teens and into adulthood. Now we get to celebrate his incomparable legacy, as he's become a melodic, symbolic reminder of a glorious, unrecoverable but cherishable moment in the soundtrack of our lives.
(Photo Credit: ocregister.com)
While all of the nominees are worthy -- Sheryl Swoopes is a a Top 5 women's baller, Yao Ming transcended the game internationally and Tom Izzo turned Michigan State into a basketball factory -- the top dawgs of this year’s induction will be two players who not only dominated their respective positions for over a decade, but were two of the most culturally-influential, polarizing, captivating, talented, hip and unapologetically black ball players to ever grace the hardwood.
(Photo Credit: yahoo.com)
Shaq and A.I. are two of the first legends of the dunkdafied, obnoxious, gangsta rap-personified '90s-2000's era of NBA basketball to become immortalized. While Iverson's cultural influence and almost narcissistic street persona kept him confined in a rebel's box and limited in his commercial reach, Shaq was winning chips, redefining the post game for big men and embraced by greater America.
They had no idea the big fella was holding it down with Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq in Soundview Projects, making Hip-Hop records that weren’t seen as gimmick rap from some celebrity basketball player. Shaq's lyrics were considered real spit from the dual mouthpiece of the gritty NY streets, where crack sales, housing projects and Hip-Hop formed a three-headed monster that engulfed Urban America and eventually spilled out into the suburbs and the billion-dollar board rooms of the corporate NBA world.
Shaq, kept an impressive balance between his LA celebrity life, the streets and his child-friendly image that garnered him movies and endorsements. When he retired, he was a four-time NBA champion and transitioned nicely into his corporate media success. The captivation of his personality never waned after his retirement. In fact, he's maintained his serious legendary status while totally embracing the silly, comical and almost goofy side of his personality.
Shaquille will have NBA bosses Dr. J, Bill Russell, Zo Mourning and Zeke Thomas escort him to the stage for his acceptance speech. It's only right that the 7-foot-1, 325-pound, 15-time All-Star be introduced by players of his immortal ilk. Now that Shaq has achieved the highest accolade a pro b-baller can acquire, it's reflection time and he did that on Wednesday night on NBATV.
O’Neal and TNT colleague Ernie Johnson sat down for a one-hour interview billed as “The Big Conversation.” Ernie was able to get Shaq to drop his guard and give fans some deeper insight into The Big Aristotle's life, which provides a deeper understanding and appreciation for who Shaq is.
He's a man of many names including "Shaq", "The Diesel", "Shaq Fu", "The Big Daddy", "Superman", "The Big Agave", "The Big Cactus", "The Big Shaqtus", "The Big Galactus", "Wilt Chamberneezy", "The Big Baryshnikov", "The Real Deal," etc.
But his one consistent purpose throughout his playing days with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant and then Dwyane Wade, was dominating the basketball game.
Here are some of the more entertaining and revealing quotes from Shaq’s pow wow with EJ, via lsusports.net:
“I asked my mother a long time ago why did you name me Shaquille O’Neal. She said because my grandmother told me that you would somebody that will always be remembered. That’s what she told me. Because all my other kids and cousins are Brian, Tony, Jerome … Why did you name me that crazy name? My mother told me that you are going to be world renown. That name Shaquille O’Neal will ring bells.”
“My dream was to make $8 million for 10 years and I already had it set. I had a little house. I was going to get a Blazer and a Mercedes-Benz.” Johnson goes: “So you’ve exceeded your expectations?” “Yes I did. I really did.” laughed O’Neal.
(Talking about Kobe when he first came to the Lakers) “You know how they always say how a guy is in the gym a couple of hours before or a couple hours after practice? That was Kobe Bryant. I’m a veteran. Practice is at 10. I’m arriving at 9:45. He was always there.”
(On the relationship with Kobe now). “We’re cool … The NBA stands for Nothing But Actors. So the beef that we had there will never spill over into real life.”
(On Pat Riley and his LSU Coach Dale Brown) … “(Riley) and Dale Brown when they tell stories before a game, you just want to go out and kill people. Pat Riley and Dale Brown are similar guys. They teach never give up. That’s what took me to the next level. Not training. Not going out in the gym three hours. Conversations.
“Dale Brown had a rule that if you miss class you are going to run. I’m a junior. I’m an All-American … I might be going pro at the end of this year. I might not. I miss class one day. I’m sleeping and I wake up and there is this hand on my chest ... I actually think I’m dead. God? There is this white hand on my chest (Coach Brown’s hand). The crazy thing is I got three locks on my door. How the hell did this guy get in my room? … I ran about 15 laps (at Bernie Moore track) ... I never missed class again. It took that disciplinarian father-like figure to get me to perform at the next level.”
“A guy asked me the other day are you happy about the Hall of Fame and I said yea. He said you don’t have a smile on your face. This was (Phillip Harrison’s) dream as well as my dream. He’s my stepfather … But when he started teaching me basketball he always preached three names – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. He told me everything about those guys. He kept saying if you listen to me I can make you as good as those guys. I wanted to be Dr. J, but once I became seven-foot, I got to be like those guys. He would just preach their name all the time. When I heard people say that Shaq is similar to those guys, all that stuff he was telling me was correct.”