Being a 90’s baby, I got a chance to witness some of the best basketball that’s ever been played. The era of the late 90’s and early 2000’s really displayed some great basketball talent that won’t ever be forgotten. Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson are two guys that headlined that era of basketball. One dominated and the other influenced the culture tremendously. When having that Mount Rushmore discussion, these are two guys that are featured on my monument. Incredible athletes in their own right, they influenced me in different ways and their games will always be appreciated.
Growing up as a Los Angeles Lakers fan in New Jersey, I grew tremendous respect for Shaquille O’Neal. Being from the Newark/East Orange area, there weren’t many people to aspire to that were from that same area. However, once I found out that Shaq was actually born in Newark, it blew my mind. He became an aspiration in my eyes and pushed me to work harder. Seeing someone make it into the NBA, coming from where I came from gave me an extra boost of motivation to improve my game and strive to be better. He dominated the game and gave back to the community which was something to look up to.
Allen Iverson was a different type of animal on the floor. He was small, he was quick, and he was tenacious. As a young kid, Iverson grasped the attention of all the young ballers growing up. They way he dressed, the tattoos, and the hip-hop culture was something that we could relate to. He brought the shooting sleeve into basketball and I found myself going store to store to get one of my own.
Watching Iverson, I wanted to perfect the crossover and finesse my shot in the paint surrounded by defenders. I didn’t care that I was small because Allen Iverson gave me that confidence. I grew my hair out, got it braided, put on my red and white Reebok Answer 4’s and played my heart out. In the 7th grade, I thought I was Allen Iverson and I was going to make sure my game and my effort emulated him.
Two huge influences and players that will never be forgotten. When you discuss the best in the game, Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson will be brought into every discussion. Their legacies will always be honored and their induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame is well deserved.