Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal, Tom Izzo and Sheryl Swoopes are some of the top candidates for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as the Hall begins its switch to a four-year waiting period for candidacy.
This is one of the new rules for the Springfield, Massachusetts, shrine. The previous requirement was that a player be retired for five full seasons. Because of the enshrinement calendar, that meant players would be out of the game for six years before they could be inducted.
"We wanted to get more in line with some of the other Halls, and it just seemed like too long of a wait for some of the individuals," Hall chairman Jerry Colangelo said on SportsCenter.
Iverson, the NBA MVP in 2001 and an 11-time All-Star, O'Neal, a four-time NBA champion and one of the game's most dominant centers, and Yao, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft whose success was a catalyst for basketball's growth in China, all retired after the 2010-11 season.
Izzo will be considered for his success at Michigan State. The Spartans have gone to seven Final Fours and won a national championship in 2000 under Izzo.
Swoopes was one of the pioneering stars of the WNBA. She won three MVP awards and four consecutive championships with the Houston Comets to go with her national title at Texas Tech and three Olympic gold medals. The women's screening committee will be allowed to name four finalists instead of two starting this year.
Other top nominees are referee Hugh Evans and Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith. Coaches and referees can be considered for induction four years after retiring or after they accumulate 25 years of coaching at the high school, collegiate or professional level.
In another change, the Hall has shut down its ABA committee. Colangelo has said the group has served its purpose.
Hall of Fame finalists will be announced during NBA All-Star Weekend in February, and inductees will be unveiled April 4 in Houston on the day of the NCAA men's championship game. The induction ceremony for 2016 honorees will be held in September.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal among first-year nominees for Baskeball Hall