SPRINGFIELD (Hall of Fame) - Yao Ming served as an ambassador for China in the NBA for nearly a decade as a dominating center and he also become his country's most famous player in international basketball.
Three other basketball icons - Americans Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson and Sheryl Swoopes - are going to be members of the Class of 2016 along with former NBA referee Darell Garretson, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, the first African-American coach in a professional league (ABL) John McLendon, and Zelmo Beaty, Cumberland Posey and Jerry Reinsdorf.
Jerry Colangelo, who serves as chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board, paid tribute to each.
The Class of 2016 is big in stature, personality and impact. - Colangelo
"These 10 inductees have each contributed to the game in their own meaningful way and we are very pleased to honor them in Springfield," he said.
Yao played several seasons for the Shanghai Sharks in his country's CBA before being selected as the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Rockets. He was voted to the All-NBA Second Team in 2007 and 2009 and the All-NBA Third Team in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Two of his finest moments came as a China player. In 2004, he led his team to an upset of Serbia and Montenegro in its last Preliminary Round Game at the Athens Olympics to earn a spot in the Quarter-Finals. Despite being injured in 2008, Yao battled his way back to fitness just in time to play at the Beijing Games, where he served as his nation's flag-bearer during the Opening Ceremony. That China team also reached the last eight.
Injuries forced Yao to retire as a player in the summer of 2011.
O'Neal, who spent nearly two decades in the NBA and won championships in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2006, played for the Orlando Magic, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. The MVP of the 2000 season while a Laker, O'Neal was eight times named to the All-NBA First Team.
He made his mark with the USA as well. O'Neal reached the top of the podium at the 1994 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Toronto and at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Iverson was an All-NBA First Team selection in 1999, 2001 and 2005. He was the league MVP in 2001. Iverson captured a bronze medal with the USA at the 2004 Olympics.
Swoopes, a three-time MVP in the WNBA and four-time champion, captured Olympic gold medals with the USA at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Summer Games. She also won a world title in 2002.
John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, saluted all of those to be honored.
The impact the Class of 2016 has had on the game of basketball is gigantic. To have several icons of the game be recognized in the same year makes this class one of the most memorable to date. We look forward to honoring each of these inductees during Enshrinement in September. - Doleva