O'Neal, Iverson Hall finalists
TORONTO — Shaquille O'Neal was just 9 when his stepfather began teaching him basketball with a plan to dominate like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 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 happen, and I never believed him," O'Neal said of Phillip Harrison, who raised Shaq along with his mother and died in 2013.
O'Neal, 43, was chosen Friday as a finalist for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, joining Allen Iverson. Yao Ming was nominated by the Hall's international committee.
Other finalists are former Suns guard Kevin Johnson, college coaches Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, Lefty Driesell, Eddie Sutton and Muffet McGraw, women's star Sheryl Swoopes, longtime referee Darrel Garretson, high school coaches Leta Andrews and Robert Hughes, 10-time AAU national champion Wayland Baptist University, and John McClendon, the first African-American coach in a professional league.
The class will be unveiled April 4 in Houston before the NCAA men's tournament final. Induction is Sept. 9 in Springfield, Mass.
All-Star Game: Heat forward Chris Bosh withdrew from today's 3-point contest and Sunday's NBA All-Star Game, citing a strained right calf. Atlanta's Al Horford, a former Florida standout, was chosen by commissioner Adam Silver to fill Bosh's spot. Bosh will still spend the weekend in Toronto, where he spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Raptors.
Soccer: Jerome Valcke, FIFA president Sepp Blatter's right-hand man, was banned from soccer-related activity for 12 years for misconduct in his time as the world governing body's secretary general.
Colleges: Iowa faces a wide-ranging federal civil rights investigation into allegations that its athletics department does not provide equal opportunities for women, the Associated Press reported.
Tennis: Rafael Nadal beat Paolo Lorenzi 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires. … Top seed Venus Williams beat Anastasija Sevastova 7-5, 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the Taiwan Open in Kaohsiung.