Basketball Hall of Fame finalists: Shaq, Yao, Iverson look to take next step to Hall of Fame

Basketball Hall of Fame finalists: Shaq, Yao, Iverson look to take next step to Hall of Fame

Former NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson are among the finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame, making the announcement Friday at NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, named three players, nine coaches, one referee and one team as finalists from the North American and women’s committees to be considered for election in 2016.

This year’s list includes seven first-time finalists: four-time NBA champion O’Neal; nine-time NBA All-Star Iverson; 27-year NBA referee Darell Garretson; two-time NABC Coach of the Year Tom Izzo; the first African-American coach in a professional league John McLendon; four-time WNBA champion Sheryl Swoopes; and 10-time AAU National Champions Wayland Baptist University.

Previous finalists included again this year for consideration: three-time NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson; the only coach in NCAA history to win 100 games at four different schools Charles “Lefty” Driesell; the all-time winningest high school coach Leta Andrews; the all-time winningest boys high school coach Robert Hughes; three-time Consensus National College Coach of the Year Muffet McGraw; four-time Division III national champion coach Bo Ryan; and four-time National Coach of the Year Eddie Sutton.

“To be nominated as a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is a tremendous accomplishment,” Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Each finalist in the Class of 2016 has had a distinct impact on the game we all love. Selecting the enshrinees for the Class of 2016 will be a challenging task for the Honors Committee, but we look forward to making the announcement at the NCAA Final Four in April.”

As announced last year, three distinct modifications have been made to the election process for the upcoming class. Most notably, potential honorees are eligible on the ballot for Hall of Fame enshrinement after four full seasons of retirement – which allows for the inclusion of O’Neal and Yao Ming on the Class of 2016 ballot.

Absent from the All-Star announcement was Ming, whose nomination falls within the Direct Elect International Committee. Enshrinees from the Direct Elect Committees will be recognized at the NCAA men’s Final Four in Houston in April.

The Class of 2016 will be announced on Monday, April 4 in Houston prior to the NCAA men’s championship game. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2016 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass., the birthplace of basketball, from Sept. 8-10.

O’Neal, NBA champion in 2000, 2001 and 2002 with the Los Angeles Lakers and 2006 with the Miami Heat, played 19 years in the league, averaging 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. A 15-time NBA All-Star, O’Neal led the league in field-goal percentage for 10 seasons and ranks seventh on the NBA all-time scoring list. He was named NBA MVP (2000), NBA Finals MVP three times (2000-02) and NBA Rookie of the Year (1993).

Iverson, a nine-time All-Star, played 14 NBA seasons, averaging 26.7 points and 6.2 assists per game. He played his first 10 seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Johnson played 12 years in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and was the first player in league history to average at least 20 points, 10 assists, a .500 field goal percentage and two steals per game for an entire season.

Izzo has led Michican State to seven NCAA Final Four appearances and his team won the NCAA National Championship in 2000.

Ryan has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year four times while coaching at Wisconsin. Prior to Wisconsin, he coached at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wisconsin-Platteville, where his team won four NCAA Division III Championships (1991, 1995, 1998, 1999). Ryan led Wisconsin to the NCAA Final Four twice (2014, 2015).

Sutton is the first coach in NCAA history to lead four different schools in the NCAA Tournament. Sutton currently ranks seventh among Division I coaches in all-time victories and has recorded only one losing season in 37 years of coaching.

Swoopes is a six-time WNBA All-Star, playing 12 seasons and averaging 15 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.