Today marks the induction of two players that I believe transcended the sport of Basketball: Shaquille O’ Neal & Allen Iverson. It has been a long ride. Here’s my take on the two athletes.
The year I really started to retain memory of any sort was 2001. Wasn’t a big fan of basketball until 2007 (wrestling guy here). NBA Street was my first introduction to the sport. In this video game, you created a playground basketball player and played in the best outside courts the US had to offer. In the end, you played against Michael Jordan himself to prove you were the best in the land. I remember having Shaq & AI on my team to beat Jordan.
Every black boy I knew when I was growing up wanted to be like Iverson. Was it the stylish conrows, the atttire, the tattoos, the walk, the talk about practice? He represented to the youth the embodiment of what it meant to be cool, a black man’s cool. When he did that rap commercial with Jadakiss for Reebok, those where the first time I wanted sneakers to call my own.
When my family didn’t have money for AI Reebok sneakers, I wore the Shaqs. Yes! Those same ones that Shaquille O’ Neal sold at Payless Shoestore. My first pair I got right around my love of basketball developed – in 2007. I remember at 14 hitting up the basketball playground with these kicks doing suicide drill after suicide drill hoping to make JV. Too bad my handles (ball control) was non-existant and my shot contained nothing but air and bricks. However, basketball has taught me at a young age even if your tired, keep on going. You never know what will happen. My first free throw, drive to the basket, layup, fade away, jumpshot, post move made after hundreds upon hundreds of attempts. I said to myself, If one day if I can be a fraction of what Shaq or AI was on the court, even if it was 1/1,000,000 – I’ll take it.
Due to various obligations as we age, I’m lucky if I play any pickup game (probably played 4 within the last 3 years) Regardless, my love of basketball will remain. Guys like AI and Shaq come around once in a lifetime. Glad I got to see them play growing up. Hall of Fame 2016, here they come! 🏀