One of the truly remarkable events in the NBA over the last few years has been the obvious black-balling of once-upon-a-time superstar Allen Iverson. Never before in the history of the sport has a player with such an extraordinary place in league lore -- not to mention loving and devoted fan base -- been so quickly and seamlessly discarded and forgotten as Iverson seemingly has been.
After his unsuccessful stint with the Memphis Grizzlies, Iverson was relegated to Turkey where he disappeared off the radar after an initial stir. Although he was getting paid somewhat handsomely for his time overseas and getting the opportunity to do what he loved, it was apparent to anyone who had followed the man’s career that he was an American, born and bred -- and that playing out his twilight years in some raggedy stadium where nobody truly appreciated his greatness was the worst possible way for the proud ex-superstar to go out.
In a recent interview with Tzvi Twersky of SLAM, Iverson echoes the sentiments of all of his fans who insist that he could provide something, anything to an NBA team willing to take a chance on him. He also makes it clear that his hopes of getting back into the league are not dead yet:
“I want to finish my career out in the NBA, if that’s possible. And that’s in any capacity. I did a lot of things, I made a lot of mistakes as far as my actions and things that I’ve said, and I think that was the reason for me not being in the NBA. My whole thing now in trying to get back is letting any organization know that I’m willing to play any part that they want me to play.”
Will a team take a chance on Iverson next year? It’s hard to tell, at this point. The simple fact that so many owners and general managers have passed on him recently is puzzling in itself.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Iverson is the head case so much of the media -- that never liked him -- has tried to portray him as over the past few years. Let’s say the gambling, alcohol and entourage concerns that Stephen A. Smith famously wrote about in his last-ditch attempts at garnering interest for his columns are valid. Let’s say that Iverson is currently at less than half of the future Hall-of-Fame caliber talent that he once was.
Shaquille O’Neal, with weight and injury problems galore, still found consistent work in the league long after he unleashed barrages of insults on every franchise that chose to part ways with him. Tracy McGrady, a shell of his former self after injuries stripped him of his durability and athleticism, garnered continued interest in the NBA despite all of his obvious negatives.
Eddy Curry. Brian Scalabrine. Jason Williams. Mike Bibby. Smush Parker. Every player on the New York Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire or Chauncey Billups. The amount of non-talent, or wasted talent, or over-the-hill talent that repeatedly finds new teams to take a chance on them is staggering – yet Iverson, for whatever reason, is persona non grata.
Based on the bewildering way that Iverson has been trounced from the league -- that he helped carry in the post-Michael Jordan era -- the smart money is not on him finding a new fresh opportunity within the NBA. Who knows, though. Stranger things have happened.