Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 14th 2016 Contents TORONTO---Shaquille O Neal was
just nine years old when his step-
father began teaching him basket-
ball with a plan to dominate like
Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and
Young Shaquille didn t even
know who they were.
Now he s on the verge of joining
them in basketball immortality.
"He told me this day would hap-
pen and I never believed him,"
O Neal said of Phillip Harrison,
who raised Shaq along with his
mother and died in 2013.
O Neal was chosen Friday as a
finalist for induction into the Nai-
smith Memorial Basketball Hall of
Fame, joining Allen Iverson to high-
light the potential class.
Yao Ming could accompany them
in Springfield, Massachusetts in
September, though he was nomi-
nated by the Hall s International
Committee and wasn t subject to
the step O Neal and Iverson had to
Former Phoenix Suns point guard
Kevin Johnson, college coaches Tom
Izzo, Bo Ryan, Lefty Driesell, Eddie
Sutton and Muffet McGraw;
women s superstar Sheryl Swoopes,
longtime referee Darrel Garretson,
high school coaches Leta Andrews
and Robert Hughes, ten-time AAU
national champion Wayland Baptist
University, and John McClendon,
the first African-American coach
in a professional league, were also
chosen as finalists by the North
American or Women s Commit-
The entire class will be unveiled
April 4 in Houston before the
NCAA championship game and
enshrinement ceremonies are set
for September 9 in what could be
an overcrowded birthplace of bas-
ketball if O Neal, Yao, Iverson and
their fans are all there.
"We re going to go on tour," joked
Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the
Hall of Fame board.
"It could be a big one."
O Neal and Iverson couldn t be
much different as people or play-
ers.The 7-foot-1 O Neal, dressed in
business attire wearing a jacket and
tie, lived up to his stepfather s vision
by becoming an inside force like
Chamberlain, Russell and Abdul-
Jabbar on his way to four NBA
championships and an MVP award.
"Later on in my career people
started comparing me to them, so
I was like if you want to compare
me to the greats, I have to represent
the game with grace and honour
and hopefully I did that," O Neal
Iverson came casually dressed as
he did for most of his career, wear-
ing a T-shirt, Yankees hat and faded
jeans with a couple of neck chains
as accessories. It was his look that
made him as popular with a gen-
eration of fans as his game.
"I m a product of Michael Jordan,
Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson,
Charles Barkley, Shaquille O Neal,
all those guys that paved the way
for us," Iverson said.
"They might not have no idea of
what they did for us as kids wanting
to be like them."
And many of today s small,
speedy guards wanted to be like
Iverson, a 6-foot, relentless wave
of energy who averaged 26.7 points,
won four scoring titles and an MVP
"I was fast until Allen Iverson.
I m not afraid to admit it," Kevin
"They called me the fastest point
guard in the NBA with the basket-
ball, and I knew I had to relinquish
that title the moment I saw Allen
Yao recalled first watching the
NBA live in China during the 1994
finals, when Houston won the title.
He went on to play for the Rockets
after they made the 7-6 centre the
No 1 pick in the 2002 draft, and
now he could find out he s a Hall
of Famer in that city.
"I feel very peaceful," Yao said.
"I m glad it all can be connected
He, O Neal and Iverson all ben-
efited from a recent change in Hall
of Fame rules that made a player
eligible for candidacy after four full
years of retirement.
It was previously five, which
meant they were actually six years
removed from their playing days
before they could be enshrined.
"Now we benefit this year by a
couple of people who are going to
be eligible, but we ve been talking
about this for a while as a board,"
"So I think it s a good move for
the Hall of Fame."
Longtime NBA reporter David
Aldridge and ESPN broadcaster Jay
Bilas won the 2016 Curt Gowdy
Media Awards, while Big Ten Com-
missioner Jim Delany is the John
W Bunn Lifetime Achievement
Award winner. (AP)
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt February 14, 2016
Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal holds up the MVP trophy, right, and the championship trophy after the Lakers
won their second straight NBA championship, in Philadelphia. AP PHOTO
Shaq, Iverson finalists, Yao
could join them in Hall of Fame
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