Shaquille O'Neal: The road to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame

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The road to becoming a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer is a long, arduous and often, transcending one.

For the 7'1" Shaquille O'Neal, he wasn't the first big man to enter the NBA and he certainly wasn't the first center to carry a formidable point scoring threat.

The likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone and Patrick Ewing are all centers who made a lasting impact on the game and litter the all-time leaderboards in numerous ways.

Not many players, however, get a foul named after them. Not many players ooze so much charisma that they can make a team polarising overnight. Frankly, Shaq wasn't most players.

A quote from Shaquille O'Neal could be the most ludicrous thing you've ever read, but no matter how far-fetched the alleged quote was, there was always a chance that Shaq actually said it.

"I'm tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok"

He still remains a keen jokester to this day, too.

The 44-year-old is now an analyst on Inside the NBA and also hosts his own podcast called 'The Big Podcast with Shaq'. It was only natural that his gregarious and almost eccentric personality would translate into the mainstream media once his days on the hardwood were through.

But, having an intriguing personality doesn't get you a spot in the Hall of Fame. The New Jersey-native isn't just a 7'1" attraction, in his own words, he's the "most dominant player ever".

O'Neal leads the 2016 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame alongside fellow former MVP winner Allen Iverson, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Long-serving NBA referee Darrell Garretson, coach John McLendon and former players Zelmo Beaty and Cumberland Posey will be enshrined posthumously, but as is always the case with Shaq, he's the star of the show.

And it's just like Iverson to be right there with him. O'Neal is one of only four players to win three Finals MVP awards. Michael Jordan leads that elite company with six, followed by Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson, who had three apiece.

Earlier on this term, many in the media were touting that Stephen Curry was going to be named the first ever unanimous MVP after his jaw-dropping efforts catapulted the Warriors towards the Chicago Bulls regular season record from 1995-96.

O'Neal was one vote shy in 1999-2000 of becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. What man received that solitary vote you ask?

Allen Iverson, of course.

The accolades don't stop there for the Louisiana State standout - where rumoured 2016 number one draft pick Ben Simmons currently plays.

Shaq's accomplishments include the 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year award, 15 All-Star game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards, two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections.

The four-time NBA champion also ranks 7th all-time in points scored, 5th in field goals, 13th in rebounds, and 7th in blocks. His free throw shooting... not so much.

As is so often the case in the NBA, big men aren't especially proficient from the free throw line. Superman was especially bad from the charity stripe where he sports a career average of 52.7 percent.

Because of this, many teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to prevent him making easy layups or dunks, as they didn't fear the consequences of him shooting from the line. This became commonly known as the 'Hack-a-Shaq' and the big man believes that was a compliment, citing its "just a way of telling me that you can’t stop me. Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Diesel was a breakout star in Orlando with the Magic, where he was the number one pick in the 1992 draft. However, the eight years with the Lakers is where he built his legacy and won three of his four championship rings.

Four years and one ring with the Miami Heat would follow before brief tenures with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns and then the Boston Celtics would close out a storied career.

A lot was made about his 'beef' with Kobe Bryant during their Lakers tenure, but after the retiring stalwart made an appearance on Shaq's podcast late last year, the two appear to be in a good place right now.

Dwyane Wade is a player who never had a problem with the man of many nicknames, and when O'Neal retired back in 2011, the Miami Heat man spoke glowingly to

"As a teammate, I’m always appreciative of the opportunity to play with one of the greats ever to put on an NBA jersey. I really learned a lot from him as a professional. We had some great years together."

Injuries may have brought O'Neal's career to a slightly premature climax, but etching his name in all the leaderboards that he has and the profound effect he had on the league with his aggressive and dominant style undoubtedly took the game to greater heights.

You'll scantly find a better reason to support someone's Hall of Fame case than that.

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