By Cameron Stewart | @ThatManCam
Sports Capital Journalism Program
HOUSTON — The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced the 10 members of its class of 2016.
Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Sheryl Swoopes, Zelmo Beatty, Tom Izzo, John McLendon, Darell Garretson, Cumberland Posey, and Jerry Reinsdorf will be enshrined on September 9 at Springfield, Mass.
O’Neal, Iverson, Ming, and Swoopes were named to the Hall of Fame as players on their first year of eligibility.
O’Neal, a 7-foot, 1-inch, 325-pound center who could mix power and athleticism, played 19 seasons in the NBA after being the first overall pick in the 1992 draft. He played four seasons with the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat and eight with the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. O’Neal is a 15-time All-Star, four-time NBA Champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA leading scorer, and the recipient of the 1999-2000 NBA MVP.
“I tried to mix being dominant and entertaining,” O’Neal said after Monday’s press conference, accurately describing the influence of his play on and off the court.
Iverson was the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and is remembered for his fearless play and ability to score. Iverson is an 11-time All-Star, four-time scoring champion, three-time NBA leader in steals, two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, the 1997 NBA Rookie of the Year, and earned the 2000-01 NBA MVP.
Iverson, a slender 6-foot guard, was loved and hated by fans for his style, perceived attitude, and how he handled himself during his career. “He’s not someone who cares a lot about getting validated (by critics),” said John Thompson, Iverson’s college coach during his two seasons at Georgetown. “He came in with the braids, the tattoos and really changed sports.”
Yao was elected in his first year of eligibility by the International Committee. The 7-foot-6 Ming helped globalize the NBA to China, where Yao was born and played before being the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Yao was named to eight NBA All-Star Games and broke the record for most All-Star votes in 2005. He averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds in his eight NBA seasons, all of which were with the Houston Rockets.
Swoopes was elected to the 2016 Hall of Fame class by the Women’s Committee. On October 23, 1996, Swoopes became the first woman to sign with the WNBA. She was a two-time WNBA MVP and three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Houston Comets. In addition to her WNBA career, Swoopes led Texas Tech to an NCAA Championship in 1993 and won Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Izzo, the Michigan State head coach, has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the past 18 seasons, making the Final Four seven times and winning the NCAA Championship in 2000. Izzo was the National Association of Basketball Coaches coach of the year in 2001 and 2012 and the Associated Press coach of the year in 1998.
Beatty was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Beatty averaged 17.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game over 12 seasons in both the ABA and NBA, winning the 1971 ABA Championship with the Utah Stars.
McLendon was previously enshrined as a contributor as the first African-American head coach in a professional league, raising the awareness of basketball at all-black colleges, and helping initiate an era of integrated basketball. McLendon will now be enshrined as a coach. He led Tennessee State to three consecutive NAIA titles in 1957, 1958 and 1959.
Garretson officiated 1,798 regular season games, 269 playoff games and 41 Finals games over 27 years. He was instrumental in organizing and heading the first union for referees.
Posey was named to the Hall of Fame via the Early African-American Pioneers Committee. Posey played basketball from the early 1900’s to mid-1920’s until deciding to play baseball, which earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2006.
Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls since 1985, will be enshrined as a contributor. Reinsdorf owned the team throughout the Michael Jordan-era of Bulls basketball that earned the franchise six NBA titles.
This group of Hall of Famers is notable for the impact made on and off the court. O’Neal serves as an iconic face of an era of NBA basketball. Iverson made a tremendous impact both culturally and stylistically with his fearless play and enigmatic personality. Yao has served as an ambassador for the game to China and has helped globalize basketball. Swoopes became a great role model for female basketball players and helped jumpstart the WNBA.