By Peter Gleason
Sixers legend Allen Iverson (above left with coach Larry Brown), who took the team to the 2001 NBA Finals, is getting the highest honor basketball can confer.
He is joining Shaquille O’Neal, who played for the Lakers whoo won that finals for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
O’Neal won four NBA championships and an MVP award and is in the league’s top 10 in career scoring.
Iverson won four scoring titles and was the league’s MVP in 2001, when his 48-point performance for the Sixers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals handed O’Neal’s Los Angeles Lakers their only loss of the most dominant postseason in NBA history.
Iverson and O’Neal will be enshrined along with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
Longtime NBA referee Darrell Garretson, coach John McLendon and former stars Zelmo Beaty and Cumberland Posey will be enshrined posthumously.
O’Neal is one of four players to win three Finals MVP awards, joining Michael Jordan (6), Tim Duncan (3) and Magic Johnson (3). He was one vote shy in 1999-2000 of becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history as Iverson received the only other first-place vote.
Iverson, an 11-time All-Star, is the only player 6-0 or shorter to average at least 20 points per game for his career, finishing at 26.7.
Izzo has reached seven Final Fours and earned 524 career victories since becoming the head coach at Michigan State in 1995. In 2000 he guided the Spartans to the NCAA national championship with an 89-76 win over Florida.
Ming, the No. 1 overall pick by the Rockets in 2002, didn’t have the numbers as some other great centers, but he bridged a pathway for the NBA to China. The third Chinese player in league history was an eight-time all-star before injuries shortened his career, as he missed 159 out of a possible 164 games in the last two years in the NBA. Ming was a first-team all-rookie in the 2002-03 season and in his first game against O’Neal he blocked his first three shot attempts in the first three minutes of the game.
Swoopes was the first player signed by the WNBA. She went on to win three MVP awards and four championships in the league, but it was her 47-point performance in leading Texas Tech to the 1993 NCAA championship that many think of first when talking about one of the greats of women’s bask