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Nothin' but Net: The legacy of A.I.
By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Allen Iverson is going to officially retire from the NBA sometime in the next week.
That is according to SLAM and let's not dwell on the fact that Iverson is three years late to his own retirement party.
In fact, let's not dwell totally on many of the toxic elements of Iverson's career. They are impossible to ignore, however. They play a massive role in Iverson's story.
There was the famous "practice" rant when his work ethic and practice attendance were questioned. There were multiple arrests and scuffles at night clubs and casinos.
Iverson also held on far too long. He was extremely productive in Denver, but his tenure with the Detroit Pistons was not impactful, nor was his brief stint in Memphis. His return to the Philadelphia 76ers was memorable the night it happened, but faded in the sunset.
Iverson is certainly not the first professional athlete to stay in the game past his prime. What made it worse, A.I. could've been a spectacularly productive bench player late in his career, but he wanted nothing to do with it.
What became sad (maybe not sad, but insert a word that makes you feel negatively toward something, or someone) were the reports that Iverson was in serious financial peril and that his personal life was unraveling. He and his wife split and allegations of serious alcohol abuse arose. (Read Kent Babb's story in the Washington Post for details.)
The Answer clearly has none in his life. Iverson has become a cautionary tale, one that should be heeded by all young professional athletes.
In recent years, his career resumed in Turkey. He joined a team in China and turned down an offer from the Dallas Mavericks D-League team. Iverson wanted back into the NBA, but the league didn't reciprocate.
So, as SLAM reports, Iverson has come to the mortal realization that it is truly over.
It's easy to remember Iverson for these stories and so many more. He's become a punch line to some degree and emblematic of the generation of modern athletes who squander life-altering opportunities.
It's also worth remembering that Iverson's career was much more than horrible decisions, casinos and alcohol.
For 12 seasons, Iverson was completely indefensible on the basketball court. He led the NBA in scoring four times, won the MVP in 2001 when he led the Sixers to an improbable run to the Finals. Iverson made 11 All-Star teams in his career, but there was more than the numbers.
If you watched Iverson for a second, you saw the most fearless, teetering on reckless, player in the NBA. He didn't weigh more than the average high- school junior, and was barely tall enough to play guard at the JV level, but he was like a missile going to the basket.
In the prime of his career, the first 12 years, Iverson attempted more than 700 free throws in a season five times. He got the royal crap beat out of him every night and suited up quite a bit for a man with a myriad of injuries, bundling up in more protective outer wear than a landscaper tearing out a poison ivy plant.
His career truly changed when Larry Brown came to Philly and flipped off conventional logic. Despite being listed at 6-feet tall, Brown moved Iverson to the off guard spot. He was a scorer and that position needed a scorer.
Iverson took the Sixers to the Finals in 2001. They took on the awesome Los Angeles Lakers, stole Game 1 in Hollywood and it featured one of the most iconic Iverson images. After draining a long corner jumper, Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue. It was classic Iverson. Good try, Tyronn, but that diving attempt at defense was silly.
And that Sixers team was interesting to say the least. Brown surrounded Iverson with defensive role players and let Iverson do almost whatever he wanted on offense. He was the only legitimate scorer.
That led to some criticism that Iverson was selfish. Would you want Iverson jacking up 25.5 field-goal attempts a night, as he did during that run to the Eastern Conference championship, or have Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, Dikembe Mutombo, George Lynch, Jumaine Jones and Tyrone Hill get an even share of touches?
(It's also worth noting, Iverson averaged 6.2 assists per game over his career and five seasons, averaged more than 7 apg. Pretty solid numbers for one of the most selfish players of all time.
But, to be fair, he turned it over a ton, as expected with the amount of time he had the ball in his hands. Also, Iverson was a horrendous man-to-man defender who couldn't stop my 96-year-old grandmother from getting to the basket.)
When you read those names of his supporting cast during the championship run, it should be easy to marvel at Iverson. Take it a step further and Iverson had the worst running mates since Ross Perot. Glenn Robinson, Derrick Coleman and Chris Webber were all past their primes and Keith Van Horn was in his prime, if you feel gutsy enough to call it that.
What we saw on the floor was the best little player of all time. We saw a magician on the court who had success, a ton individually and moderate amounts on teams with little help. (He did play with Carmelo Anthony in Denver and Iverson was still a star.)
We also witnessed a man who galvanized the city of Philadelphia, the champion of the underdog. We have a Rocky statue at the steps of our art museum.
His style reached millions and has been widely assumed as the cause of the NBA's dress code changes, which, after much bellyaching early, not one player has a problem with now.
Thinking of Iverson as a poor, pathetic, broken down athlete with a reported drinking problem is fair. It's recent and it's sexy. It is what Iverson became.
Just don't forget the Iverson that was. That Iverson was something to behold.
- Is Allen Iverson a Hall of Famer? Statistically, mortal lock, but that's not the only factor. All I'll remind you of is this: Dennis Rodman is in the Hall of Fame. He's been arrested, kicked a defenseless cameraman in the sweet spot, went to a reality show for alcohol addiction and met with one of the world's most horrible dictators. Rodman is in the Hall of Fame.
- Chris Paul was elected President of the Players Association. He is the first superstar in the role since Patrick Ewing a decade prior. When LeBron James flirted with the position earlier in the month, I wrote it's important for superstars to be engaged in the labor process. Superstars help not only in negotiating, but in terms of keeping members united. It's going to be a difficult job because the union has faced scandal and needs to replace Billy Hunter as executive director. So, good luck with all of that, Chris.
- I like the Larry Sanders' extension for the Milwaukee Bucks. It was reportedly four years, $44 million. He's only had one good season, but he's a defensive beast and that rarely goes away with time.
- Movie moment - Does anyone else envision the actors and actresses behind the voices in animated movies, actually playing the parts? I do, and if you don't, well I'm weird. That's my problem with "Cars," which has run on a constant loop for my son for the better part of two weeks. Sorry, can't buy a relationship between Owen Wilson and Bonnie Hunt. (You need to find other things to occupy your time when watching the same thing over and over again.)
- TV moment - Just when I thought the two celebrity diving reality shows were the sign to grab two of each animal and build a boat, TLC rolled out a show on Monday. I won't tell you what it's called, but look it up. I feel for the center piece of the show, but why is that on television?
08/22 20:00:26 ET
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