Three-time NBA Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal and four-time NBA leading scorer Allen Iverson head the nominees for the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The announcement on Friday, which kicks-off the 2016 NBA All-Star weekend, also included 27-year NBA referee Darell Garretson, 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.
The finalists announced on Friday did not include the popular seven-foot-six-inch Yao Ming. However, the former Houston Rocket center from Shanghai and #1 overall draft pick in 2002 received a nomination through the international committee.
NBC Sports reported that Yao and Shaq carried on at the ceremony, heckling each other, reminiscent of their former playing days as rivals.
“I feel very excited and very honored to be nominated,” Yao exclaimed. “I’m just worried when we stand on the podium together, can it handle our weight?”
Shaq jabbed the Chinese Big-Man for taking to many steps when he took one of his signature shots: “And Yao Ming, he used to travel all the time when he’d shoot that fadeaway.”
The 2016 North American Committee Finalists, according to the official HOF website, include:
Allen Iverson, Kevin Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal, coaches Charles “Lefty” Driesell, Robert Hughes, Tom Izzo, John McLendon, Bo Ryan, and Eddie Sutton, and referee Darell Garrettson.
2016 Women’s Committee Finalists include:
Coaches Leta Andrews, Muffet McGraw, player Sheryl Swoopes, and Wayland Baptist University.
“To be nominated as a Finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame is a tremendous accomplishment,” Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Jerry Colangelo commented. “Each finalist in the Class of 2016 has had a distinct impact on the the game we all love. Selecting the Enshrinees for the Class of 2016 will be a challenging task for the Honors Committee.”
Shaquille O’Neal, considered a lock for enshrinement in April, demonstrated that although he may have lost a few steps since retiring in 2011 he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
Speaking to some Hall of Famers at the ceremony, which included Isiah Thomas, Reggie Miller, Oscar Robertson, Nate “Tiny” Archibald, Spencer Haywood, Bill Russell, and others, he joked: “I want to thank all the guys on the stage, except Rick Barry. He came to LSU and wanted me to shoot free throws underhanded. I can’t do it. I’d rather shoot zero percent than shoot free throws underhanded…. And Dick Bavetta, I don’t like you either, you gave me 10 technicals and threw me out of the game twice.”