Traveling with Shaq to the Basketball Hall of Fame was so far the Best Shaq Fu Radio day ever. Take a walk into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in two minutes. Watch Shaq’s Speech and others. See photos from our trip in the Hall of Fame Gallery.
Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal was always the biggest kid on the court. From his days as a McDonald’s High School All-America to his backboard-shattering days in the NBA, the man with the endless Rolodex of nicknames and dance moves was known as much for his fun-loving attitude as his basketball ability. A two-time unanimous First Team All-America at LSU and 1992 National Player of the Year, the Orlando Magic made Shaq the number one overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft. Shaq’s impact was immediate, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 1993 and later leading the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals. He would then become a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson to win three NBA championships in three years. O’Neal was named Finals MVP in each series. Next stop was Miami, where Shaq again earned an NBA title in 2006 and a seventh consecutive spot on the All-NBA First Team. He won Olympic gold in 1996, led the NBA in scoring average twice, and somehow managed to keep his sense of childlike wonder through it all.
Standing just 6-feet tall, Allen Iverson became one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. While he was frequently the smallest player on the court, he could get anywhere he wanted because of his quickness, strength, and handle. Nicknamed “The Answer,” Iverson left Georgetown University following his sophomore season to pursue his NBA dream and showcase his killer crossover. He left an indelible mark on the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001 when he was named regular season MVP and led the franchise to the NBA Finals. In 17 seasons of professional basketball, A.I. was selected to eleven NBA All-Star rosters, scored more than 24,000 points, dished more than 5,000 assists, and was named an All-NBA performer seven times. He won the regular season scoring title four times (1999, 2001, 2002, 2005). Iverson brought a new sense of style to the NBA with his hip-hop influenced fashion. He was the type of player who was never afraid to be himself both on and off the court. Love him or hate him, it was hard not to respect him.
He was larger than life, and on opposite sides of the world, the man who stretched seven-and-a-half feet into space changed the face of basketball forever. Yao Ming joined the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2002, just a few months removed from having led his Shanghai Sharks to the Chinese Basketball Association championship. Already a legend in his native China, the big center was poised to test his mettle against the best basketball players in the world. In eight NBA seasons, Yao made eight All-Star rosters, averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds, and was named to the All-NBA team five times. He was also a three-time gold medalist and three-time MVP at the FIBA Asia Championships. Yao was a cultural and physical phenomenon with the personality to balance the demands of playing in a foreign land on the biggest stage while bridging the social, economic, and political landscapes of two very different worlds.
Alongside Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo, Sheryl Swoopes was one of the original players signed to the WNBA when the new league for women’s professional basketball was launched in 1996. Before that Swoopes spent her storied college career at Texas Tech where she was a First Team All-America in 1992 and 1993 as well as being named the Naismith College Player of the Year and the WBCA Player of the Year her senior season. Swoopes still holds the school record for highest career scoring average and most points in a season. In 1993, she scored an NCAA record 47 points in the national championship game and was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. During her time in the WNBA, Swoopes was named MVP three times (2000, 2002, 2005) and won four straight championships as a member of the Houston Comets (1997-2000). At the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game, Swoopes was recognized as one of the 15 greatest players in league history. Her time with USA Basketball included three Olympic gold medals and one FIBA World Championships gold medal.
Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Tom Izzo learned the value of hard work early in life. That work ethic carried over to the basketball court where the walk-on became a Division II All-America at Northern Michigan University. Following one year at Ishpeming High School and four seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, Izzo arrived at Michigan State in the fall of 1983, eventually becoming head coach in 1995. By his fourth season his program advanced to what would become the first of seven Final Fours in his first 20 years, and in just his fifth season, he guided the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA national championship. Five more Final Fours would follow as Izzo became the Big Ten’s all-time leader in Final Four appearances, NCAA Tournament wins and consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, ranking among the all-time best in college basketball history. Michigan State’s all-time winningest coach, Izzo is a strong advocate for coaches and a guardian of the game, while he is also universally recognized for being among the most media-accessible, frank, and personable coaches in the profession.