The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is expected to announce that they’ve reduced the wait time for eligibility by a year, which could result in the enshrinment of Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming in 2016.
A.I. was ruled eligibile for the HOF earlier this year.
The ceremony will take place next September in Springfield, Mass.
An official announcement is expected this week. But people with knowledge of the plans said 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.
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.