Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming could join the Class of 2016 after election process changes
POSTED: Dec 14, 2015 8:31 PM ET
Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson may be eligible to enter the Hall of Fame together in September 2016.
The Hall of Fame is making major changes to the election process, including reducing the wait for eligibility by one year in a move that could suddenly produce an unexpected mega-class of Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming in 2016.
The Hall has finalized the adjustment to shorten the wait time from five seasons in retirement to four before a player can be nominated, wanting to avoid what becomes a sixth year by the time voting is complete near the end of the NBA regular season. Under the new plan, voting and potential enshrinement would come after five calendar years, rather than five NBA seasons.
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The big picture is that many candidates with a strong case for first-ballot election -- Iverson, O'Neal, Yao, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash -- could be enshrined a year earlier. The immediate impact is that O'Neal and Yao, among others, are eligible to be nominated for the Class of 2016 and join Iverson on the previous timeline. Yao and Shaq, plus Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jason Williams (among others), could not have gone on the ballot for another year under previous Hall rules.
While a trio with that much star power would be a boon for increased marketing efforts by the Hall, the newly adopted schedule would hurt the chances of several carryover candidates who may have hoped the absence of new candidates with strong NBA ties would become the opening they needed. Before, it would have been Iverson as the only player with a strong case creating potential opportunities for Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson and Chris Webber. Now, if Iverson, O'Neal and Yao are all nominated, the odds against Hardaway, Johnson and Webber grow, depending also on which college coaches join the ballot.
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Yao would arguably have a clearer path if he was nominated as a Contributor, but he previously rejected that approach, even when it could have meant going on the ballot without the five-season wait required by players via the North American committee that handles most candidates with NBA ties. That would indicate he will want to be judged for his work on the court, not what his Rockets career did to popularize basketball in China, a decision that could take support away from others even if the six-time All-Star does not make the Class of 2016.
The Hall will also drop the ABA committee after five years as a direct-elect category, according to insiders, a move that had been discussed for more than a year amid internal debate over whether the defunct league had run out of players and coaches who deserved the easier path to induction after being overlooked in the past. Candidates with a heavy ABA background will now be judged by the North American committee in direct competition with the best of the NBA and require two rounds of voting for enshrinement, as opposed to the single ballot of direct-elect groups.
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The four other direct-elects introduced in 2011 -- Contributor, Early African American Pioneers, International and Veterans -- are expected to continue.
The previous calendar benchmarks will also remain. Inductees from the direct-elect committees and the finalists from the North American and the Women's groups will be announced at All-Star weekend (this season Feb. 13 in Toronto) while winners out of North American and Women's will be revealed the day of the NCAA men's title game (April 4 in Houston).
The enshrinement ceremony will be in September, on a date to be announced, in Springfield, Mass.
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