The 2016 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame finalists were announced on Friday, and it was hard not to notice three big names in NBA history are among the finalists. On top of the list were two of the best big men of their era in Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming, while one of the toughest point guards to ever play the game in Allen Iverson also appears at the top of the list of finalists.
Many may shake their heads at Ming’s inclusion in a Hall of Fame list, but this isn’t just about his NBA career. There’s little denying his overall importance in spreading the game of basketball to a higher level in China and internationally.
Besides, isn’t his Visa commercial Hall of Fame-worthy?
Ming finished his NBA career as one of the most efficient big men in history, shooting 52.4 percent from the field and had 9,247 points in his 7-year NBA career (19.1 points per game average). He also averaged 1.9 blocks and 9.2 rebounds per game for the Houston Rockets before a reoccurring foot injury forced him in to retirement following the 2009-10 season.
While Ming’s inclusion on the list may be controversial, there’s no doubt about the worthiness of names like O’Neal and Iverson though. O’Neal won an MVP in 2000, was a three-time NBA Finals MVP, was named the Rookie of the Year in 1993, and won four championships in the NBA. He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. A 15-time NBA All-Star (1993-98, 2000-07, 2009), O’Neal led the league in field goal percentage for 10 seasons (1994, 1998-2002, 2004-06, 2009) and ranks seventh on the NBA All-Time scoring list.
Iverson also won the NBA MVP award, doing so in 2001. He finished his career averaging 26.7 points and 6.2 assists per game in 14 seasons, mostly with the Philadelphia 76ers.
O’Neal and Ming were included on the ballot a year early because of a rule change in December that reduced the wait time to four years after retirement from five years.
The other finalists in this year’s class:
- Former high school coach Leta Andrews
- Former college coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell
- Former NBA referee Darrell Garretson
- Former high school coach Robert Hughes
- Current Michigan State coach Tom Izzo
- Current Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw
- Former college coach John McLendon
- Former college coach Bo Ryan
- Former college coach Eddie Sutton
- Former WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes
- The 1954-58 Wayland Baptist Univ. women’s basketball team
Finalists will go in front of a committee of 24 people, which will determine the final class.
Those finalists that receive 18 votes from that committee will be part of the Hall’s 2016 induction class. That class will be announced on April 4, the day of the NCAA National Championship game in Houston.