The NBA’s season-long 75th anniversary celebration reached a crescendo on Sunday at the NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland, as the 75 Greatest Players team was set to be honored at halftime of the game.
The unveiling of the team at the start of the year naturally led to some debate about who should’ve been on the squad, as they added 26 names (thanks to a tie in voting) to everyone who was the NBA at 50 team. What makes the team so difficult to argue and so great to look at is the way it pays tribute to each era of the NBA and those who paved the way for the current era of stars to stand next to, and All-Star, when so many legends come back for festivities, is one of the times of year where you can really see how much it means to guys to be in that company.
On TNT’s pregame show, Charles Barkley and Shaq were asked about the photoshoot before the game for all the 75 Greatest Players team and Barkley offered some quick comments on how cool it was, but Shaq had much more to say, launching into a pretty incredible speech in which he thanked not just the legends in the NBA who came before him but everyone who pushed him throughout his career — from childhood to the NBA — to get him to the point where he can be on that stage with other NBA legends.
.@SHAQ delivered a powerful, emotional tribute to all of those who inspired him to become one of the most dominant NBA big men ever. @NBAonTNT #NBA75 pic.twitter.com/DzUgKkm0r6
— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) February 21, 2022
As Ernie says at the end, it’s genuinely one of the best things they’ve ever done on TNT and the honesty and emotion of Shaq, who is so often guarding that emotion and deflecting with comedy, was tremendous. It is a reminder of how much this team means to these guys and Shaq wishing his father, sister, and Kobe Bryant could be there for this to celebrate with him because of how important they were to his journey was particularly touching.