Short stint in Turkey wasn't enough to push the dynamic guard into the 2017 group, which includes Shaquille O'Neal
POSTED: Sep 12, 2015 7:44 PM ET
Allen Iverson's decision to play 10 games in Turkey in 2010-11 complicated the Hall of Fame nomination process.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Because there rarely is anything simple about Allen Iverson, it took conversations -- maybe even debate -- then an important decision. Next, it will require two votes. Both should go his way. But, again, Allen Iverson? Anything but simple.
He is now eligible to be nominated for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. To say Iverson, should he be elected as expected, will be the headliner for the Class of 2016 is obvious. With his popularity among fans and the anticipation of an epic acceptance speech at the induction ceremony, AI would be the headliner most any year. (In his acceptance speech Friday night, 2015 inductee Dikembe Mutombo acknowledged Iverson's likely spot in the Hall, thanking former 76ers coach Larry Brown for "allowing me to play with Allen Iverson, who will stand here soon in Springfield.")
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The calendar distinction is necessary, though, because the finish to his career was as unique as Iverson himself. Had 2009-10 with the 76ers been his final season, the path to enshrinement would have been straight and level. Wait the mandatory five seasons, be nominated in 2015 and be part of the voting cycle that culminates in ascending the steps of Symphony Hall in the summer of '16.
Iverson's decision to play in Turkey in 2010-11 was the complication. That could have pushed induction back until 2017 -- the same year that Shaquille O'Neal is eligible to enter the Hall -- or even longer if Iverson had fulfilled both seasons of the deal with Istanbul-based Besiktas. When Iverson's European career lasted all of 10 games, officials were handed a judgment call.
After years of no decision, it was finally decided that 10 games -- especially 10 games on a different continent -- were nothing more than a brief moonlighting opportunity for a candidate whose nomination would go through the North American committee. Iverson can be nominated in 2015, not 2016, and could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2016, not 2017.
It worked out well for Iverson, by many accounts in need of good news in his life, and for the basketball museum in western Massachusetts. AI, assuming he is nominated, will be the only new big name with a strong NBA connection in the election cycle. He would be the star power to draw national attention and sell tickets next summer while Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson, Chris Webber and others hope the lack of obvious candidates from the North American committee creates a fresh opportunity for enshrinement. (It worked this year, with Mutombo the lone newcomer elected as Jo Jo White was inducted after retiring in 1981 and Spencer Haywood in 1983.)
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"It's not a marketing decision," Hall president John Doleva said. "It is a playing decision. It's a decision by the voting committee. It definitely is not a marketing decision."
It's also not the only decision. The same panel must next decide on the timeline for Rasheed Wallace, whose situation is even more complicated that Iverson's. Wallace retired after 2009-10, which ordinarily would make him eligible for nomination in 2015 and induction in 2016, and stayed retired for two full seasons. Then he came back with the Knicks in 2012-13 -- for 21 games.
Iverson played 10 games, Wallace a quarter of a season. Iverson was in Europe, Wallace the NBA.
"That is a little grayer, for sure, because of the NBA aspect of it, frankly trying to make a comeback," Doleva said. "That is something the group will have to take a look at. ... There's a discretion about such things as just these issues. What's the impact of it? What kind of commitment should a person be held to if they've done something overseas for a short period of time and not made a season of it. Rasheed Wallace is an interesting question that we will be addressing."
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