The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 14 Class of 2016 finalists Friday as part of the NBA's All-Star Weekend in Toronto, moving a pair of legendary stars, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson, closer to enshrinement.
Here is a look at the full list of potential inductees from the North American and Women's committees, courtesy of NBA TV:
|Lefty Driesell||Coach||University of Maryland|
|Robert Hughes||Coach||Paul Laurence Dunbar High School|
|Allen Iverson||Guard||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Tom Izzo||Coach||Michigan State University|
|Kevin Johnson||Guard||Phoenix Suns|
|John McLendon||Coach||Cleveland State University|
|Shaquille O'Neal||Center||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Bo Ryan||Coach||University of Wisconsin|
|Eddie Sutton||Coach||Oklahoma State University|
|Sheryl Swoopes||Player||Houston Comets|
|Muffet McGraw||Coach||University of Notre Dame|
|Leta Andrews||Coach||Granbury High School|
|1954-58 Wayland Baptist University||Team||Wayland Baptist University|
The NBA's official Twitter account provided a photo of the finalists along with some current Hall of Famers who attended the announcement:
There are also a number of potential inductees in the Early African-American Pioneers, International, Contributor and Veterans committees, but their fate will not be decided until April. Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is among those who could be inducted.
The jovial Yao was in attendance, and he made a joke about the potential for both he and Shaq getting inducted into the same class, per the Basketball Hall of Fame on Twitter:
"I am just worried that if (Shaq) and I are on the stage at the same time that it can hold our weight," Yao Ming pic.twitter.com/oh8dD4zLZO— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) February 12, 2016
Along with Shaq and Iverson, a trio of top collegiate head coaches are on the ballot in the form of former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton and current Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
As seen in this graphic from Spartan Basketball, Izzo has a particularly strong case for the voters to consider:
Tom Izzo has been named one of 14 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/EtACPzv0mX— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) February 12, 2016
While the list of finalists is a strong one, some notable names were left out. Former Sacramento Kings forward Chris Webber is perhaps chief among them, while former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway also missed out despite being a finalist last year.
As a 15-time All Star, four-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP and one-time regular-season MVP, Shaq is in the discussion for the greatest center in basketball history.
The former Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics standout averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game over the course of his 19-year career while shooting an impressive 58.2 percent from the field.
Not surprisingly, Shaq stole the show at the Hall of Fame announcement by getting on the microphone and entertaining those in attendance, per NBA TV:
While the Big Aristotle thrived at just about every stop during his illustrious career, he recently revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live that he intends to enter the Hall as a Laker, which makes sense considering the three titles he won in L.A.:
Although Iverson didn't achieve the same level of championship success that Shaq did, he is no less deserving of the honor bestowed upon him Friday.
AI is an 11-time All Star, four-time scoring champion, one-time MVP and one-time NBA finalist, as he almost single-handedly led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals in 2000-01.
The Answer spent the first 10-plus seasons of his NBA career with the Sixers before stints with the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies. He then finished his 14-year career by returning to Philly during the 2009-10 campaign.
Iverson is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, as he averaged 26.7 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, he even managed to outduel future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant from a statistical perspective when they clashed over the years:
LeBron James: 1 of 5 players to outscore Kobe Bryant over 15+ head-to-head matchups (Durant, Iverson, K Malone, Payton) @EliasSports— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 10, 2016
One of Iverson's most important contributions to the game of basketball was his overall swagger, as he inspired many young players during his 14-year NBA career.
I've always said Allen Iverson had the biggest effect on the culture of the NBA out of any player. He started a culture. He started the arm sleeve, the tattoos, all that stuff. He's the biggest influence in the NBA out of anybody. ... I wanted braids, because AI had them. I just loved the grit that he played with. He always played with a chip on his shoulder. I feel like I sort of do the same.
Iverson's individuality was on full display Friday, as he opted for jeans, gold chains and a New York Yankees hat over a suit, per this photo courtesy of SI.com’s Ben Golliver:
Allen Iverson made quick exit from Hall Of Fame presser, but he was all smiles... pic.twitter.com/N45Il1ZFrS— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 12, 2016
O'Neal and Iverson appear to be virtual locks for the 2016 class after Hall of Fame organizers decided to make players eligible four years after retirement rather than five.
The remainder of the class is far more difficult to predict, but the decision will be announced April 4 in Houston prior to the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship Game. The induction ceremony will take place Sept. 9 at the location of the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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