Shaquille O'Neal has always packed a big presence, and Friday he'll find himself joining some other giants of his sport.
The 7-foot-1 O'Neal is one of 10 people who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson, current Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and women's basketball icon Sheryl Swoopes are among the other inductees.
O'Neal and Iverson are overshadowing the other inductees when it comes to publicity. That certainly isn't a surprise when it comes to O'Neal, who carried a big persona during a 19-year career that included 15 All-Star berths and three NBA Finals MVP awards.
O'Neal ranks seventh on the NBA's all-time scoring list (28,596 points), 14th in rebounding (13,099) and was part of four championship squads -- three with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat.
"It means I put in a lot of hard work, and it means a lot to be mentioned with the elites," O'Neal told reporters. "It means people were able to appreciate how I played."
O'Neal's career was at its zenith when he starred for the Lakers for eight seasons. But he and Kobe Bryant reached a point where they could no longer co-exist and O'Neal was traded to Miami.
His career ended in 2011 and he has remained around the game by being part of TNT's studio show.
Iverson was a nine-time All-Star and four-time scoring champion during a 14-year career. He averaged 26.7 points and scored more than 30 per game in four seasons, including a career-best 33.0 points in 2005-06.
"It's not just about playing so hard -- it's why I played so hard," Iverson said. "You know what I mean? It's what I wondered would happen to me if I didn't do it."
Izzo has guided Michigan State to seven Final Fours and one NCAA title during 21 seasons as the coach. He has a 524-205 record and has led the Spartans to 19 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
"Going into the Hall of Fame isn't something I even dreamed about," said Izzo, "so it's hard to think about what it will be like until I get there."
Swoopes was a six-time WNBA All-Star and three-time league MVP who averaged 15 points over 12 seasons. She also led Texas Tech to the 1993 women's college title.
"I could not be more excited and honored," Swoopes said. "God has blessed me tremendously and I am so grateful to be joining such an amazing group of people that I can call 'family.' "
Among the other inductees is Yao Ming, the former Houston Rockets star whose career was cut short by foot injuries. He will be enshrined as a global ambassador for his impact toward making the NBA a highly popular entity in his native China.
The 7-foot-6 Yao averaged 19.2 points and nine rebounds in eight seasons before being forced to retire in 2011. He was an eight-time All-Star.
Also being enshrined are Zelmo Beaty (bolted NBA to become ABA superstar), Darell Garretson (referee), John McLendon (first African-American coach in a pro league), Cumberland Posey (early African-American pioneer) and Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf (contributor).