Calipari, a two-time college coach of the year, is among nine first-time finalists on this year's ballot. Mutombo, an eight-time NBA All-Star, and Leslie, a three-time WNBA MVP, are also finalists for the first time.
The others are two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch, seven-time NBA All- Star Jo Jo White, 39-year NBA referee Dick Bavetta, longtime college coach Bo Ryan and high school coaches Robert Hughes and Leta Andrews.
The 2015 Hall of Fame class will be announced at a news conference on April 6 in Indianapolis prior to the NCAA Tournament men's national championship game.
A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies will take place during the weekend of Sept. 10-11 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
"The finalists for the Class of 2015 are a group of very distinguished individuals who have each made a unique impact on the game of basketball," said Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in a statement Saturday. "To be recognized as a finalist is a great achievement in and of itself and each of the finalists recognized today should be very proud. Although the process of selecting the final class members of 2015 will be a difficult task, we look forward to making the announcement at the Final Four in April."
Calipari, currently the head coach at the University of Kentucky, was voted as the Naismith Coach of the Year in 1996 with Massachusetts and in 2009 with Kentucky. He was the coach at UMass from 1988-96, guiding the Minutemen to the Final Four in his last year, then spent nine years at Memphis from 2000-09, also leading the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament title game in 2008. Calipari has guided Kentucky to the Final Four three times, winning the national championship in 2012 before a runner-up finish last year.
Mutombo, in addition to his All-Star appearances, was also a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He led the league in blocked shots for five consecutive years from 1994-98 and blocks per game from 1994-96. The Georgetown product played in the NBA from 1991 through 2009, recording 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds, and 3,289 blocks in 18 NBA seasons.
Leslie won the WNBA's MVP in 2001, 2004 and 2006, and was an eight-time league All-Star during her storied career. She was the first player to dunk in a WNBA game, won the WNBA championship with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002 and is the league's all-time leader in total rebounds with 3,307. A Naismith Trophy winner as women's college player of the year at USC in 1994, Leslie has also starred on the international stage as a four-time Olympic gold medal winner for the United States.
Fitch coached in the NBA for 25 seasons and was the league's top coach in 1976 with Cleveland and in 1980 with Boston. He led the Celtics to the 1981 NBA title and guided Houston to the Western Conference championship against Boston five years later. Prior to coaching in the NBA, Fitch spent 12 years in the college ranks, leading North Dakota University to consecutive NCAA Division II Final Fours in 1965 and 1966.
White was an All-Star for seven consecutive seasons from 1971-77 and averaged 17.2 points and 4.9 assists during his 12-year NBA career. He helped Boston to NBA titles in 1974 and '76, winning NBA Finals MVP honors in the 1976 championship series against Phoenix.
Bavetta never missed a game in his 39-year NBA career, concluding the 2013-14 season having officiated 2,635 consecutive regular-season games. He also officiated 270 career NBA playoff games in 29 consecutive seasons, including 27 NBA Finals games, and was the first NBA official to referee the Olympic Games in 1992.
Ryan is currently the coach at Wisconsin and guided the Badgers to the Final Four last spring. He has been named the Big Ten's top coach three times since taking over at Wisconsin in 2001. Prior to Wisconsin, he coached at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1999-2000 and University of Wisconsin-Platteville from 1984-1999, where his team won four NCAA Division III Championships (1991, 1995, 1998, 1999).
Hughes coached high school basketball in Texas for 47 years and ranks first on the all-time wins list for boy's high school coaches. He has compiled an overall high school coaching record of 1,333-247 (.844) and led his teams to 35 district championships and five state championships.
Andrews has coached high school basketball for over 50 years and is the all- time winningest high school coach -- male or female. She has coached five high schools in Texas since 1962 and has led her teams to 16 state Final Four appearances, plus a state championship in 1990.
Hardaway was a five-time NBA All-Star during his 13-year career from 1989-90 through 2002-03 with Golden State, Miami, Dallas, Denver and Indiana. He averaged 17.7 points and ranks 13th in NBA history with 1,542 3-point field goals. An All-NBA First-Team selection in 1997, Hardaway was a member of the gold-medal winning 2000 U.S. Olympic team and was the 1989 WAC Player of the Year at UTEP.
Haywood was a four-time NBA All-Star and averaged over 20 points six times during his career. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1968 and was the ABA's top rookie in 1969 before moving on to the NBA the following year, winning an NBA title with the Lakers in 1980.
Johnson made three All-Star games while spending the majority of his 12-year career with the Phoenix Suns. He was drafted in 1987 by the Cleveland Cavaliers and played 52 games in Cleveland before being traded to Phoenix. Johnson was named the 1988-89 NBA's Most Improved Player and his career average of 9.1 assists per game ranks sixth all-time. After basketball, Johnson entered politics and has served as the mayor of Sacramento since 2008.
Also announced Saturday were five direct-elects who are the initial members of the Class of 2015. They include Louie Dampier from the American Basketball Association Committee, John Isaacs from the Early African-American Pioneers Committee, Lindsay Gaze from the International Committee, former Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn from the Veterans Committee and former college coach George Raveling from the Contributor Direct Election Committee.