Allen Iverson is now eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame

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That sound Allen Iverson hears could be the Hall of Fame calling his number.
That sound Allen Iverson hears could be the Hall of Fame calling his number.

As the basketball world celebrated the induction of Dikembe Mutombo, Spencer Haywood, Dick Bavetta and the rest of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 on Friday evening, NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper reported that the powers that be in Springfield, Mass., have made a decision that could turn the 2016 enshrinement ceremonies into must-see TV:

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The Hall's guidelines for nomination and election dictate that players "must be fully retired for five years before being eligible for Enshrinement," and may be considered for candidacy only "in the sixth year of retirement." Iverson didn't officially announce his retirement until October 2013, after reports he'd do so months earlier, which followed an earlier November 2009 retirement after a brief and tumultuous stint with the Memphis Grizzlies.

That high-top hangup lasted just one week. Iverson accepted an offer to return to the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise that selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft and for whom he starred for a decade, leading Philly to six playoff appearances and all the way to the NBA Finals in 2001, when he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player.

His return trip three years after being shipped to the Denver Nuggets by a Sixers club "more than ready for a makeover," however, failed to recapture the magic of those early-aughts halcyon days. Iverson averaged a shade under 14 points in 32 minutes per game over 25 appearances for Philly before leaving the team to return to Atlanta and be with his family.

Iverson played his last NBA game on Feb. 20, 2010. He'd later sign on with Turkish pro club Besiktas for what would wind up being just a 10-game stint, as he returned to the U.S. early in 2011, underwent calf surgery and never returned. As Howard-Cooper reports, the Hall's decision-makers have chosen to act as if that brief interlude in Istanbul never happened:

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Howard-Cooper has more:

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.)

"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."

We'll take Doleva at his word. We'll also note, however, that coming off a 2015 ceremony that — with all due respect to the likes of Mutombo, Haywood, White, John Calipari, Lisa Leslie, Tommy Heinsohn, Louis Dampier and the rest of the honorees — was very light on prefatory buzz, introducing the possibility of a headlining induction speech by one of the most polarizing, unfiltered and magnetic personalities in NBA history sure would seem to be beneficial to the overall profile of next year's Hall of Fame festivities.

Whatever your opinions on Iverson's on-court efficiency and myriad off-court issues over the years, he's inarguably one of the most prolific scorers in basketball history and one of the, if not the, most influential individuals in the development of the culture surrounding the game over the past 20 years.

An 11-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA selection, Iverson led the league in scoring four times, in minutes per game seven times and in steals per game three times. He averaged 26.7 points per game over the course of a 14-year NBA career, the seventh-highest per-game mark of all time. His 24,368 points slot him in at 23rd on the NBA's all-time scoring list; he ranks in the top 30 in league history in steals, field goals made and attempted, and free throws made and attempted; he ranks in the top 50 of all time in total minutes and assists.

The ferocity with which Iverson played and the authenticity he exuded in the process made him a favorite of hoopheads from SLAM to, eventually, Halberstam. ("I have been learning to admire Iverson this season, and it's turning out to be a good deal of fun," he wrote during the 2001 Finals, after Iverson hung 48 on Phil, Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers and made Tyronn Lue famous.) With every pell-mell drive to the basket, every crossover and stepback and hiccup-quick ankle-pulverizer, every defiant glare and verse and scream, every throwback and chain rocked, every unvarnished and unapologetic interview, Iverson further cemented himself as what Jay Caspian Kang once called "the rebel god for an entire generation of hoops fans."

He lives in rarefied air in the minds of future legends like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who both called him arguably the greatest pound-for-pound basketball player of all time, and remains revered, even by the up-and-comers who view even James and Durant as relative greybeards. Earlier this summer, the National Basketball Players Association gave Iverson the first-ever "Game Changer Award" at the first NBPA Players' Awards, with union president Chris Paul honoring Iverson as "a basketball supernova" who went beyond pushing the envelope and instead "ripped the envelope apart."

If you're basing your decision solely on on-court accomplishments, as the indispensable Basketball-Reference.com's Hall of Fame Probability model does, Iverson profiles as a lead-pipe lock, giving him a 99.98 percent likelihood of earning enshrinement, the same as current Hall residents Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor and Paul Arizin. Once you factor in the broader cultural impact that Iverson made on the game and all that surrounds, you'd be hard-pressed to make a convincing argument against A.I. speeding straight into Springfield on his first try.

Now that Doleva and company have made it clear that Iverson's candidacy is on the table, we'll find out soon whether any such argument gets forwarded and finds traction, or whether we should begin preparing ourselves for what ought to be one of the more memorable induction speeches in Hall history.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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