The 2015 class of inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame, from the left, Alex Isaacs, accepting on behalf of his father John Isaacs, Dick Bavetta, John Calipari, Louis Dampier, Lindsay Gaze, Spencer Haywood, Tom Heinsohn, Lisa Leslie, Dikembe Mutombo,
Jessica Hill
December 14, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Basketball players will now be eligible for the Hall of Fame four years after they retire, creating the potential for Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming to headline a powerful class of 2016.

It's 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.

O'Neal, a four-time NBA champion and one of the game's dominant centers, and Yao, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft whose success was a catalyst for basketball's growth in China, both retired after the 2010-11 season.

The Hall also shut down its ABA committee. Hall chairman Jerry Colangelo says the group has served its purpose. Another change was to allow the women's screening committee to put forward four finalists instead of two.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will announce its candidates for next year's enshrinement ceremony next week. Finalists will be announced during the NBA All-Star weekend in February and the inductees will be unveiled on April 4 in Houston on the day of the NCAA championship game.

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