DENVER – The news hardly made Lakers coach Byron Scott flinch. Former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal became eligible as a first-ballot candidate to become inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, with festivities taking place from Sept 8-10.
“It was surprising if he wasn’t,” Scott said.
With O’Neal winning four NBA titles and ranking fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list, Scott ranked O’Neal as the NBA’s fourth-best center after former Lakers centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as well as former Boston Celtics center Bill Russell.
What about former Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon?
“Olajuwon is up there,” Scott said. “I look at statistics, but I also look at rings. Shaq got more tings than Olajuwon.”
Olajuwon won two NBA titles, interestingly including a four-game sweep against the Orlando Magic in the 1995 NBA Finals. But Scott has both dreadful and pleasant memories about O’Neal.
Scott coached the former New Jersey Nets when O’Neal led the Lakers in a four-game sweep in the 2002 NBA Finals.
“When he wanted to play and dominate, there was nothing you could do about it. Period,” Scott said. “Single coverage wasn’t working. Double coverage wasn’t working. When you double, most of the time you kick it back deeper in position. When you threw it back in, there was nothing you could do. So he was one of those guys that are rare in our sport.”
Scott also played his 14th and final NBA season in 1996-97 with the Lakers during O’Neal’s first year wearing purple and gold.
“He was one of the biggest guys I’ve ever been around,” Scott said. “But he was also one of the funniest guys I’ve ever been around. He’s very playful and seemed to love life and have fun.”