Yao Ming, Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal are some of the top candidates for induction into the 2016 class of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The NBA legends are eligible for the Hall after the recent rule change that reduced the waiting period for candidacy to four years.
Tom Izzo, the legendary Michigan State Spartans coach, and WNBA icon Sheryl Swoopes were also named as early nominees for the 2016 HOF class.
The previous rule required a player to be retired for five full seasons, meaning a player had to wait six years post retirement to earn the honor. “We wanted to get more in line with some of the other Halls, and it just seemed like too long of a wait for some of the individuals,” Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, said on ESPN SportsCenter Monday.
Yao Ming, Iverson and Shaq all retired after the 2010-11 season. While Ming was instrumental for the growth of basketball in Asia, Iverson and Shaq won one MVP award apiece and dominated the sport during their peak years. Ming, an eight-time All-Star, was one of the game’s most dominant centers during his nine-year career with the Houston Rockets.
Swoopes was a pioneer in women’s basketball, winning three WNBA MVP awards and four consecutive championships with Houston Comets during a legendary career. She also won a national title at Texas Tech and three Olympic gold medals.
Other nominees include referee Hugh Evans and Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith.
The finalists for the 2016 HOF class will be announced during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto February 14. The inductees will then be unveiled on April 4 in Houston after the NCAA men’s championship game. The induction ceremony will be held in September.
It will be a time to celebrate the careers of Yao Ming, Shaq, Iverson and the others.