The current era of basketball, at least from 2009 until now, can be considered a golden age for players at the point guard position. Almost half of the league currently has a former All Star point guard playing significant minutes on its roster. The decade before however should be recognized as the era of the power forward. The league was loaded at the 4 position, and many of those forwards were influential in how the players at that size play on both ends. In the upcoming month we will highlight a different former All Star 4 man on the fourth day of the week in a series titled “Flashing Back Forward.”
6x All Star, 2001-02 Most Improved Player
Many may not remember Jermaine as a power forward (he spent the latter years of his career playing center as a journeyman across the league) but yet and still during his All Star years in Indiana, O’neal was listed at power forward alongside a rotating trio of white centers (see: Brad Miller, Scott Pollard, Jeff Foster).Whatever what he was officially listed as position wise, O’neal played BIG, and looked the part just as much. In his prime JO was a 20 and 10 machine, making All Star teams in the Eastern Conference even in years where he didn’t play a ton. His post game was one of the best in the league, and at 6’11 he towered over most defenders allowing him to get his shot up with his back to the basket or in a face position. Like Rasheed Wallace and Zach Randolph he was a member of the Trail Blazer power forward tree, having being drafted in 1996 by Portland before being traded to the Pacers after 99-00 season. On defense he was just as imposing: during his six straight year All Star stretch he averaged 2.4(!) blocks per game. He’s also a lost relic of the past decade in terms of his hair braid aesthetic. JO doesn’t have the longevity in terms of production like some of the big stars on this list, but his six year run in the middle of the 2000s is something to be reckoned with. Too bad we will never know what that 2005 Pacers squad would have truly done in the playoffs after the after effects of the Malice at the Palace.