Shaquille O’Neal heading to the Hall of Fame


Shaquille O’Neal was officially announced as an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday. An honor Orlando Magic fans should be proud of.

When the Orlando Magic landed the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, they had literally won the lottery.

Reportedly beneath every desk at that fateful Draft Lottery sat a jersey, emblazoned in each team’s colors with O’Neal’s name scrawled across the back. Only Pat Williams got to take his out.

The point was everyone knew from the moment O’Neal stepped on a NBA floor, he would be an impact player.

He made an impact in his first year, becoming the Orlando Magic’s first All Star. He made an impact quickly in the league, guiding the expansion Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in their sixth year in the league.

Most of his play and his championships came outside Orlando. He won with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. There is still no denying O’Neal’s impact — and continued impact — on the franchise that drafted him.

Perhaps it will become a footnote, perhaps the new documentary This Magic Moment will immortalize his four seasons in Orlando. There is no denying where O’Neal got his starts in the NBA and where he had his formative years in the league. There will always be highlights of O’Neal tearing down backboards in Magic pinstripes.

And there will be plenty of nostalgia this September as Shaquille O’Neal gets inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Monday the Hall of Fame announced O’Neal as part of its Class of 2016, along with notable players Yao Ming, Allen Iverson and Sheryl Swoopes. O’Neal becomes, more or less, the first player to have played significant playing time with the Magic to enter the Hall of Fame.

O’Neal averaged 27.2 points per game and 12.5 rebounds per game for the Orlando Magic. He was just as good in the Playoffs with 25.3 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game.

More importantly, O’Neal put the Magic as a franchise on the map. Orlando started gaining its own identity because of O’Neal and the Magic. This was no longer a city with Disney in it.

The divorce was messy though.

O’Neal hit free agency and the Magic low balled him in negotiations. There was the infamous Orlando Sentinel poll and the attraction of a bigger city and its promise. O’Neal left for Los Angeles and lost a lot of his relationship with the city and the team. There are still plenty of people sour about the way he left and how he needled Dwight Howard, his heir apparent in Orlando, during the Magic’s second title run.

That relationship has slowly been repaired. Last season, O’Neal was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame in its second year. He was more reflective of his time in Orlando and appreciative of where he came up. He was perhaps too young to appreciate all the opportunity, his eyes too big for opportunities elsewhere.

No one could fault O’Neal for searching the limelight. He thrived in it and won his championships becoming one of the most dominant players in league history.

The Magic will not be the first thing anyone thinks of when it comes to O’Neal. He made his Hall of Fame legacy elsewhere.

Next: Shaquille O'Neal: Orlando will always mean a lot to me

Orlando was where it all started for him. The team certainly owns a piece of his legacy. And the Magic and Magic fans should join in reveling in his Hall of Fame induction.