February 14, 2015 / 5:03 PM / 4 years ago

Mutombo among finalists for Hall of Fame

Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo of U.S. poses before the start of a news conference at the Sports Congress and Exhibition at Aspire Dome in Doha November 12, 2012. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Defensive wizard Dikembe Mutombo was named one of 12 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, while Australian player and coach Lindsay Gaze was one of five elected to the Hall by select committees.

Mutombo, the shot-blocking Congolese center who was honored four times as NBA Defensive Player of the Year, was among six players, five coaches and a referee to make the short list for possible election in 2015.

He was joined by seven-time NBA All-Star Jo Jo White, Tim Hardaway, Spencer Haywood and Kevin Johnson, and three-time WNBA MVP and four-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie among players up for consideration.

Other finalists were twice U.S. College Coach of the Year John Calipari, two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch, college coach Bo Ryan and high school coaches Robert Hughes and Leta Andrews, and 39-year NBA referee Dick Bavetta.

Joining Gaze, who was elected to the Hall by the International Committee, were Tom Heinsohn from the Veterans panel, Louie Dampier by the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, John Isaacs as an Early African American Pioneer, and George Raveling from the Contributor Committee.

Gaze, who played for the Australian Olympic hoops team and then coached them in four successive Olympics from 1972 and was three-time National Basketball League coach of the year with the Melbourne Tigers, joins his son Andrew Gaze in the Springfield, Massachusetts, shrine.

“It’s like a dream come true,” the 7-foot-2 (2.18 m) Mutombo said about being considered for the Hall of Fame.

“Defense continues to be a key focus for success on the basketball team. I was lucky to play with Alonzo Mourning, another great basketball player and defender, and being coached by John Thompson, who emphasized defense every day.

“I think the results paid off.”

Editing by Alan Baldwin

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