by Bryan CrawfordAllen Iverson

It‘s 1 a.m. I’m up. My wife has pneumonia. My 1-year-old daughter is sick too. And I’ve got Allen Iverson on the brain. Did I mention that it was 1 a.m.? So why the hell am I thinking about AI when I should be sleeping? Or at least checking on the two most important women in my life and making sure that they’re OK? Where are my priorities? That’s the real question. The answer? Well, just like AI’s career at this point, that one isn’t so clear.

After unceremoniously leaving the Memphis Grizzlies last week and then officially parting ways with the team on Monday, I unmercilessly bashed Allen on Twitter for the better part of two days. But, I couldn’t understand why. The only thing I can think of is that somewhere deep down inside, as an A.I. fan—behind all the “F*** Allen Iverson” and he’s a crybaby and a whiner tweets—I’m very disappointed that his career and his legacy will be tarnished because of his actions these last two seasons.

Fourteen years in the League, ROY, MVP, 10-time All-Star, four-time scoring champ, All-NBA first and second team three times each, two-time ASG MVP, and a sure fire first ballot HOF’er. And all of that will be overshadowed because he quit on the Detroit Pistons and the Memphis Grizzlies when they wouldn’t start him.

What?!

It just doesn’t seem fair that he’ll be remembered more for that than any of the things he did on the court. It’s crazy that any discussions regarding his career will always come with a, “Yeah, but…”

The great ones don’t quit. Legends don’t quit. They can’t. Allen Iverson did, though. And it’s sad.

I guess part of me is writing this just to remind myself of the “good ‘ol days” and how big an Allen Iverson fan I actually was. For some reason, I always felt a connection to him. At one point, I even wanted to “be” Allen Iverson. Before I became as Cedric The Entertainer would say, a “grown ass man,” I was just a young kid with hoop dreams and “The Answer” was my hero. Yeah, I grew up in Chicago and MJ was my hero too, but Allen was just like me.

At the time, we were both six feet tall and 165 pounds soaking wet. We graduated HS the same year. Our birthdays are exactly one month, one day, and one year apart. We had the same Tupac, “Me against the world” and “Only God can judge me” attitude. Basically, he was more relatable and I felt like if he could make it, then so could I.

From Bethel HS in Hampton, VA, to his release from jail, to the minute he got to Georgetown in ’94 and graced the cover of SLAM 9 and was later drafted No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in ‘96, up until that point and for several years after, I followed his every move closely and tried toAllen Iverson & Tyron Lue emulate everything he did on and off the court.

I started cutting the sleeves off my t-shirts and getting tats. I practiced his crossover and that sick spin move from his Reebok commercial. I grew my hair out and started rocking the cornrows, even going so far as having the lady who braided my hair give me the same designs that he had. Du-rag, check. Baggy clothes, check. Mitchell & Ness jerseys, check. It was hero worship at its finest. I look back on it now and realize how stupid I was, but hey, it is what it is. It was what it was.

I didn’t have all the shoes because I was a Nike and Jordan guy and outside of the Question; I thought they were all ugly anyway. I also couldn’t get into rocking the headband or the arm sleeve either. But other than that, Bubbahuck was my guy and I was down, 10-toes with him.

And I know that I wasn’t the only one.

His influence was everywhere. Go to Anyhood, USA back then and you could see the impact that he had on the people. He was one of us. He came from where we came from. Here was an average sized dude with a bigger, and better than above-average game that made it to the NBA. He was living every hood hooper’s dream. We had to ride with him. We had to support him. We the people had his back like the dude in the Verizon commercial, no matter what.

So when the media hated or said anything bad about him “we” took it personal. Color lines were drawn. Sides were taken. Middle fingers up. “They” were attacking “us” and we defended our guy no matter if he was right or wrong. I guess that’s why I’m up (it’s now 2 a.m.) because it seems very ironic that after so many years of being an Iverson sympathizer and supporter, I would become one of “them” and start attacking “him”.

But again, I’m not the only one.

I’m not the only one who disagrees with the way he’s handled his business the last two seasons. I’m not the only one who feels let down by his behavior. And I’m certainly not the only one who feels him quitting on two teams in consecutive years is the worst possible thing he could’ve done. Especially not after all he’s been through and all we’ve been through with him. It’s almost like a slap in the face to those who’ve had his back all these years.

Yeah, we supported him through thick and thin, but in no way can we honor this. Whining, crying, pouting and then quitting because you’re not a starter? Uh, uh… the people can’t get behind that. Emotions ran from sadness, to disappointment, to anger even. How could he do this to us? How could he make us look so bad? How could he prove Charles Barkley (me, myself and Iverson)—of all people—right?

We didn’t care about his shooting percentages. We didn’t care that he never won a championship. We didn’t care that he never got back to the NBA Finals after 2001 either. We didn’t care because he played with his heart and went all out every time he took the floor, so he got a pass. He earned our respect. But we can’t give him a pass for this.

Should he have started in Detroit? Maybe. Should he have started in Memphis? Absolutely. But the way he handled both situations was all wrong. He said that his role with the Grizzlies was never discussed between himself and head coach Lionel Hollins, but after what happened in Detroit, maybe the onus should’ve been on him make sure that his role with the team was clearly defined and not sit back and wait for someone to tell him, or just blindly assume that because it was the Memphis Grizzlies and his name is Allen Iverson he would be the starting PG just off GP. But it was not to be.

Writer Scott Cacciola of The Commercial Appealdescribed his time in Memphis this way:

An employee at The Grizzlies Store was taping a sign to a big rack of Allen Iverson merchandise. Everything was 50 percent off, all 90 remaining replica jerseys slashed from $170 to $85, though there was one important disclaimer:

All sales are final!

The A.I. Era came and went without the man playing a single game here, his tenure comprising three road losses, 37 points and several rants about his lack of playing time. On Monday, the Grizzlies waived him. On Tuesday, the franchise went about trying to erase any memory of him.

So this is what it’s come to for the man who in his prime was as dominant on the floor as Shaquille O’Neal despite being more than a foot shorter and two hundred pounds lighter? After an entire summer of being the last big name FA to find a new team, Allen Iverson once again finds himself without a job and his career in limbo.

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m asking myself a different question now. What’s next for Allen Iverson?

There have been multiple rumors suggesting that the New York Knicks may be very interested in his services once he clears waivers and the talks seem to be very serious. Given their struggles, it’s not like they have anything to lose by bringing him in anyway. But one thing is for sure, this is definitely his last chance. If he blows it this time, his career will undoubtedly be over.

It’s all on you now Chuck.