2016 Basketball Hall of Fame Finalists Announced: Latest Comments and Reaction

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2016

Former NBA basketball player Shaquille O'Neal waves to fans as he is honored  during an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons after he was inducted in the Magic Hall of Fame, Friday, March 27, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. Selected by Orlando with the first overall pick of the 1992 NBA Draft, O'Neal spent four seasons with the Magic from 1992-96. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

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:

Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Finalists
FinalistPositionPrimary Team
Lefty DriesellCoachUniversity of Maryland
Darrell GarretsonRefereeNBA
Robert HughesCoachPaul Laurence Dunbar High School
Allen IversonGuardPhiladelphia 76ers
Tom IzzoCoachMichigan State University
Kevin JohnsonGuardPhoenix Suns
John McLendonCoachCleveland State University
Shaquille O'NealCenterLos Angeles Lakers
Bo RyanCoachUniversity of Wisconsin
Eddie SuttonCoachOklahoma State University
Sheryl SwoopesPlayerHouston Comets
Muffet McGrawCoachUniversity of Notre Dame
Leta AndrewsCoachGranbury High School
1954-58 Wayland Baptist UniversityTeamWayland 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:

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:

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:

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.

Per Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul talked about the influence that the diminutive guard, who was generally listed at six feet tall, had on his game:

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:

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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