AP Basketball Writer
TORONTO — Shaquille O’Neal should be a lock. Yao Ming and Allen Iverson could join him.
Two larger-than-life big men and one of basketball’s most exciting little guys highlight the list of players, coaches and contributors who are eligible for induction this year into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
O’Neal and Iverson must get past an extra step by first being chosen as finalists Friday at a press conference during the NBA’s All-Star weekend festivities. If they do, they would then require 18 votes from the 24-member Honors Committee, as do all nominees from the North American and Women’s Committees.
But Yao was nominated by the Hall’s International Committee, recognized as much for his impact in the growth of basketball in his native China as his play in the NBA. That committee elects players directly to the Hall.
The class of 2016 will be unveiled April 4 in Houston on the day of the NCAA championship game, and the enshrinement ceremony is set for Sept. 9 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
O’Neal, Yao and Iverson earned a chance to be a part of it after a recent rule change that made players eligible for nomination after four full seasons of retirement. Previously, they had to wait five years, which meant they were actually six years removed from their playing days by the time they could take their place in the birthplace of basketball.
O’Neal won four NBA championships, an MVP award and is in the league’s top 10 in career scoring. Iverson, just 6-feet tall, won four scoring titles and was the league’s MVP in 2001, when his 48-performance for Philadelphia in Game 1 of the NBA Finals handed O’Neal’s Lakers their only loss of the most dominant postseason in NBA history.
Yao doesn’t have as impressive a resume, his career cut short by multiple foot injuries. But the 7-foot-6 center lasted long enough to make an enormous impact on and off the court after being selected No. 1 overall in 2002.
A look at some others who could be Springfield-bound in September:
JERRY KRAUSE: On the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Bulls compiling the best record in NBA history, perhaps it’s time to honor the executive who was one of the architects of the six-time champions?
TOM IZZO: The way he consistently gets his Michigan State teams to peak in March, don’t be surprised if he’s got a game to coach in Houston when the class he should be in appears during Final Four weekend.
SHERYL SWOOPES: The first player signed by the WNBA went on to win three MVP awards and four championships in the league, but it was her 47-point performance in leading Texas Tech to the 1993 NCAA championship that many think of first when talking about one of the greats of women’s basketball.
MARV ALBERT: Already a Hall of Famer as a broadcaster, Albert, like Krause, is now nominated by the Contributor Committee that directly elects to the Hall. Should he be honored again? As Albert might exclaim while calling a game, “YES!!”
DARELL GARRETSON: He officiated more than 2,000 games in the NBA and spent 17 years as the league’s chief of officiating. There aren’t many easy calls for referees, but this seems an easy call about one.