Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 at 3:03 pm  |  114 responses

Links: Who Is Allen Iverson?

Once AI does leave, how will he be remembered?

by Lang Whitaker

Last week, NBA writers around the world had a chance to do a dry run of their “Allen Iverson is retiring” columns. I think I read 278 of them. We’ve all known that the end of the Iverson era was coming for a few months now — even if it now appears it wasn’t actually the end — but the news seemed sudden nonetheless. (“Yeah, it was really a shame. To go so suddenly like that.” “He was dying for years.” “Sure, but…the end was very, very sudden.” “He was in intensive care for eight weeks.” “Yeah, but I mean the very end, when he actually died. That was extremely sudden.”)

The general consensus from the NBA writerazzi seemed to be that Iverson was great, an amazing player with unmatched heart and soul, but he wasn’t great enough. For you see, AI never did play team basketball — despite having a career average of 6.2 assists per game — and for this, we will have to give him a place in history somewhere just short of the top echelon.

Well, what did you expect? Who did you think you were watching? Consider who Allen Iverson is, and what he went through to even make it to the NBA. His father deserted him and his mother. His mother, Ann, was just 15 years older than Allen. They grew up in a house that more often than not didn’t have electricity or running water. When the weather turned bad, their floors would be flooded with raw sewage.

Growing up, the first lesson Allen Iverson was forced to learn was how to look out for himself, a lesson absorbed more out of necessity than anything else. At Georgetown, John Thompson designed the offense to feature Iverson. In Philly, they asked him to shoot every time he got the ball. Billy King surrounded him with role players, and he carried the whole mess of them to the NBA Finals. It didn’t result in a championship, obviously, but they came damn close. Since then, but particularly in Detroit and in Memphis, Iverson was asked to be less than he felt he was able to be.

It’s possible that Allen Iverson never learned how to be a part of a team. He’s been through 9 coaches in 14 seasons. The most long-tenured coach he ever had was Larry Brown, who has never exactly been a model of stability. I’ve always felt that Iverson would be glad to defer, given the proper situation. Put talented guys around him, he’ll take that step back. He did it in Denver, didn’t he? When I spoke to Carmelo about playing with Iverson as a teammate, he raved about him. During the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Iverson was USA Basketball’s best ambassador; he was the only member of Team USA who was willing to face the media after every game, no matter how embarrassing the outcome.

(Incidentally, one of my favorite AI quotes of all time came from those Olympics. “Honestly, it’s real life,” Iverson noted after the US was awarded their bronze medals. “A lot of people don’t understand how Smarty Jones lost his last race. A lot of people don’t understand how Muhammad Ali lost a single fight. And a lot of people don’t understand how hard it is over here. I could go on about what didn’t happen, but I don’t want to take away from what the other teams did here.”)

It’s really only been the last two pit (literally) stops where AI didn’t fit in. In Detroit and in Memphis, Iverson’s personal agenda overshadowed that of the team’s agendas. (Both places where, it should be noted, neither team hid their lack of future plans for AI, either.)

There are two ways remaining for Allen Iverson’s career to go. He could sign on with a contender, play 10-15 minutes a night without grumbling, and do none of the things that made (and make) Allen Iverson “The Answer.” Or he could bounce around and finish things out the way Dominique Wilkins finished it out, playing for a succession of terrible teams, getting buckets but not getting W’s.

Which direction is the “proper” direction for Iverson to go? As a basketball fan, someone who appreciates the nuance and flow of watching a team share the ball and involve everyone, I think it would be tremendous to see Allen Iverson attempt to play that style of basketball, but he feels he doesn’t have to yet. AI says he’s still a franchise player, and he seems to believe that if a team is assembled around him, he still has enough gas in the tank to carry that team to a title. He might be wrong, but this is what he believes.

If he never plays again, if his career ended today, he’ll retire as a former MVP, Rookie of the Year, four-time scoring champ, three-time All-NBA first teamer, ten-time All-Star and 17th all-time in NBA history in scoring with 24,020 points. Unbelievable numbers for anyone, much less a kid who came from nothing.

That Iverson appears to not actually be retired means not only that all my peers get another shot at writing their final Iverson columns, but also that Iverson gets a shot at redeeming himself in their eyes. But if he cared about that, he wouldn’t even be Allen Iverson.

Allen Iverson has been judged his entire life for not being what everyone else has wanted him to be. When he does finally walk away from the game, can’t we, for once, judge him on what he has actually done rather than what he didn’t do?

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  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    (starts slow hand clap)

  • tavoris

    excellent, Lang.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Its not taht AI hasn’t been able to play TEAM basketball, its that these freaking “coaches” play him 18 minutes a game! Any All-Star would be angry at getting only 18 minutes a game, NOT just Allen Iverson. Rich Hamilton h@ted coming off the bench just as much as AI did, but nobody said anything about him. Its not about who starts–its the MINUTES that count. Try putting the Washington Wizards Michael Jordan on the floor for only 18 minutes a game; he would definitely complain just as much as AI, if not more.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    That’s what I’ve been saying.

  • http://allanzuss@yahoo.com Mendel

    not to shabby, But I see great things happening in Philly

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    @Teddy: yes its everyone’s fault except Allens. Of course it is. And the Jordan analogy is downright stupid.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    I agree with Lang 100% percent. This is a really well-put way that hundreds of thousands of AI fans and millions of AI fanatics have been trying to argue for the longest. I think AI in Philly is just what the proverbial doctor ordered for the dude. Back home, beloved again, able to play a role HE feels comfortable with…it’s a win-win all around. And while his detractors will hate him for the next several months…the rest of us will be able to enjoy AI, back where he SHOULD be…where he became the AI tons of us fell in love with and hopefully will right some of the wrongs in the court of public perception.

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    Great work lang. The only thing I would add is that I think he could fit in anywhere and let the game come to him etc, but in memphis they basically said you’re not in our top 5 on this roster and I think that’s what he has a problem with not just the shots and points. When you have a coach tell you “Mike Conley is better than you” but the reality is you’re no worse than tied for the best player on the roster something is wrong. And it wasn’t AI.

  • rainman10

    haha I love the Fletch reference Lang.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @rainman10: Glad you got it.

  • http://www.anothersamchan.com Sam

    This is THE best AI article I’ve read.

    “I’ve always felt that Iverson would be glad to defer, given the proper situation.”

    This is EXACTLY what I believe in, he quit on Memphis because he couldn’t believe the players that were playing in CRUNCH time ahead of him. He thought his job was to win basketball games, not catch splinters.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    Lang, sure Detroit didn’t have long term plans for him, but I can’t give you Memphis. I mean, they offer him a specific contract and AI chooses to sign it. Besides, did AI have long term plans for Memphis as well? Nope, he hoped to parlay that one year deal with the only team who were willing throw him a bone into another contract elsewhere for the following season, right?

  • Garett

    One of these stories I read from CNNSI was basically racist and super-outdated, saying things like he can’t get a job now because he has neck tattoos. Huh?

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    Micheal NZ : ever play ball? If you’re clearly the best or second best player on your roster and you’re sitting behind the 27th best starting pg in the entire nba you have every right to be p!ssed.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I feel the point of this story is dead on: who are we to criticize how Allen Iverson wants to play? I’ve bashed him for not following in the previous team dynamics (almost every single starter on Detroit tried to go on the bench, I was angry with AI that he wouldn’t even try) but perhaps I should withdraw my criticism a bit; after all, I love him when he’s playing at the top, why should I be mad at Allen Iverson for wanting to play at the top of his game? If I ignored the fact that Steve Nash and his Suns were disgruntled over not running and being at the top of THEIR game, I can’t really hate on Iverson for wanting to join a team that will let him play at the top of his.
    Iverson simply is a player who plays at an MVP level with the ball and a crew who will let him have it. So that is what Iverson wants to find.
    On the other hand, I don’t like the beginning very much. Making excuses for his ego? Yes, his home life seemed awful, but if that’s a valid excuse for him never bothering to learn proper team basketball, we should be holding people like Amare in an almost heavenly respect, since he went through maybe an even worse home situation than Iverson and has seemingly turned out for the better.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Bryan: In fairness, AI inked that contract. It’s not like Iverson was paying Memphis to play ball, now.

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    i hope he comes back and writes a triumphant footnote to his career… not saying he’ll win a title or anything, but it’s just the way it’s ended (so far), it doesn’t befit the man he was and his achievements… sadly, these last couple of years seem to be overshadowing what happened before… so please come back AI

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    “I think we’re in kind of a gray area here.”

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Why is the Jordan analogy off, Michael? Oh, I forgot Jordan dropped 26 and 7 with the Wizards.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Great column.


    I’m gonna see if the signing actually goes through before I really think about what it means but my initial sentiment is this…..Here we go again.


    and i mean that in every possible way and from every possible angle.

  • http://www.sonicbids.com doyouwantmore

    Cosign Jukai’s post, almost to the letter. I agree with everything Lang wrote, but take exception to the part about AI’s upbringing. Seems like anyone who’s guilty of making mistakes these days is automatically given a pass if they can be portrayed as a victim. Just read the NY Times or MSNBC sometime.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Iverson’s mistake was signing with Memphis.
    Michael, if you really think it was reasonable for Iverson to be benched at the ends of ball games in both Detroit and Memphis, behind a struggling RODNEY STUCKEY and then MIKE CONLEY, I don’t know what to tell you.

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    Jukai , agreed sort of. In contract talks do you think they said “well Mike Conley is our guy Allen you’ll get a solid 18-21 mpg” ? And you KNOW Iverson was kicked Conley’s as$ all over the court in practice. He did sign the contract so yeah f*ck he should honor the contract but at the same if he wasn’t given a fair chance to compete for the role he wanted then he also had a right ask out. Basketball is about competition and it makes it all the more unreasonable when the word is Tinsley is about to get the starting gig and he hasn’t played like 2 years. It was just a bogus situation all around.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Bryan: I think the problem was, the different ideas in management. The GM wanted to fully develop Conley, the owner wanted Iverson to be given a fair shot to compete for the spot, and the coach was probably scared sh*tless of Iverson.
    I honestly think if Iverson had stayed and continued to play, he woulda won that starting spot. It was clear Conley was playing terribly, and that Memphis was not going to take the heat. And I think Iverson MAY HAVE TRIED, had his family situation not exploded on him.
    I don’t blame Iverson for wanting to play his absolute best, but I do think he made his bed, and he had to sleep in it. Every single media outlet new and reported that Conley was going to start at the beginning of the season. There was no way Iverson did not at least have some idea.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    They don’t have casinos in Philly yet, right? Atlantic City better watch out then.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    Sure, AI could be pissed in Memphis & Detroit being behind both Stuckey and Conley respectively. Got no real problem with that. But he didn’t have to quit on his team(s).

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    Bryan, Iverson signed in Memphis KNOWING Conley was the current starter going into the season. He even stated that while, yes he wanted to start, he would have to beat Conley out in camp for that spot. Look it up. Now, Iverson missing the preseason, then missed the open set of games before coming back to play 18, 28 and 21 mins. TELL ME WHAT THE FU(K IS UNREASONABLE ABOUT THAT. Three damn games. As jukai said, given a a few more games (and Conley’s continued poor play) then the spot was indeed likely Iversons.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Let’s see: John Thompson, Larry Brown, George Karl, Michael Curry, Lionel Hollins. Please pick out the names of those who do not belong.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    So if the coach isn’t a HOF’er then its ok piss and moan your way out?

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne


  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    My point is that AI respects a coach who gives respect as much as gets respect. The first 3 coaches are known as straight-shooters who aren’t afraid of telling a player how it is. Michael Curry never gave AI straight talk, he just decided to send AI to the bench because Rip got upset. Lionel Hollins never really had a chance but even if AI wasn’t starting he showed he should have been in there at crunch time. Any coach knows you play your best players when the game is still in doubt.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    After all is said and done, the Memphis coach was an idiot to play Conley over Iverson. That is all.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    And I agree with TADOne about how he should’ve been there during crunch time. EVEN if he doesn’t, AT LEAST give him more minutes than Conley.

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Michael Curry was worse than Isiah Thomas in NY. Yeah, I said it.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Long: Uh… no.

  • peter

    Michael NZ (I’m disappointed that your name contains my country) what exactly is your vendetta against Allen Iverson?

  • http://myspace.com/rsaenz24 RoG23

    Iverson has been screwed, that much is clear. But isn’t it clearer that he cares about his legacy more than he cares about competing for a ring? I mean memphis, philly? Teams on the rise yes, but hardly elite .

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Moose

    Brandon Jennings has taken Iverson’s spot. Dude is the second coming.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com/madlib Michael NZ

    A vendetta? Um, no. And ‘I’m disappointed that your name contains my country’. Jeez. Ok.

  • tavoris

    @Rog23, you don’t think Kobe cares about his legacy even more than Iverson? Kobe is the most calculating player in the NBA. How about Lebron? Try Steve Nash? Heck, MJ un-retired in Washington ONLY because he believed that HE ALONE could revive the team.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Uh, I’m willing to bet you a gazillion bucks Iverson cares more about his legacy than Steve Nash…

  • Brian

    I forgot all the other guys in the league came from ideal situations prior to making it. No wonder everyone has it out for AI.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    07-08 in denver, 42mins per game. .458fg% .809ft% 3.0 rpg 7.1 apg 2 steals per game, 26.4 ppg. WTF IS WASHED UP ABOUT THOSE NUMBERS?!?!?!?! AI PLAYED GREAT A YEAR AND A HALF AGO! NOW MANY SAY HES FINISHED?! I SEE WHY AI IS PISSED, YALL MUSTA FORGOT WHAT HE DID NOT TOO LONG AGO IN 07-08

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Good riddance. He’s a charmer and a cheat. The game will be better off without him.
    Wha—sorry, I thought this was about Bobby Bowden. Never mind.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    ryan, as usual, not funny. what is funny is how incredibly tasty a chipotle steak burrito with black beans, salsa verde , cheese, sour cream, and lettuce is.

  • VasFinest

    Tarzan: exactly! i HATE it when people say AI is washed up or is cancerous to a team. Did he not win 50 games in his last full season with the nuggets? did he not play on a nuggets team that did not have nene at the time due to cancer as well as melo dealing with his 15 game suspension? how was he detrimental to the nuggets in any way? everyone knows michael curry ruined everything for the pistons last year and still the media wants to blame AI for it and say that he cant play team ball. im not saying hes the ideal team player or say that hes the #1 option and he even admitted that he’d come off the bench if it was reasonable. im just sayin he’s still an all star caliber player and people shouldnt make it seem like he’s done and washed up

  • http://myspace.com/brandnew Bryan

    I’m so sick of people saying athletes quit on their teams. What about the teams who quit on their players? The pistons coach quit on allen iverson before he even got there and THEN threw him under the bus after the fact. I understand coming off an injury most players have to work their way back into game shape Allen Iverson is not one of those players he’s like the toughest guy in the nba he was in no way hampered by injury and with AI out Conley couldn’t crack double digits in points and got what ? 4 assists a game? Gtfoh. Should he be handed the keys ? Maybe not but after 3 games, all losses by the way, when he clearly outplayed Conely in HALF the minutes he had every right to voice his displeasure. After he said it , the right thing to do would be to meet with him as a coach and explain your reasoning. This isn’t college this is a players league and iverson was the best player on memphis and he should have been treated as such.

  • http://slamonline.com ben osborne

    I want to read Khalid’s extended thoughts on this.

  • JeffreyT

    Honestly, how the hell can you say Iverson caress more about his legacy than Steve Nash? Hae you ever met the man? No, so you have no right to say that. Allen Iverson is still a professional athlete. He’s been in this game a long time and I can almost gurantee (note i said almost) that what he is most concerned about is getting a ring. Take a look back to the NBA finals against the Lakers. He played balls to the wall every minute of every game. Don’t go and assume that he is joining these crappy teams to help his legacy, cause you dont know the man. He feels that with his ability, he can take these teams to the top because he feels they have potential.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    AI is top 30 ever.

  • http://www.youtube.com/tripledouble TripleDouble

    I agree with peter @ 4:45. Shame on him.

    AI is imperfect, who isn’t? But he’s also the man. Give him the damn ball.

  • don

    AI, i switched to #2 instead of wearing the #3 because of you. i felt that i had to be really really good to be able to wear the #3, and since i wasn’t that good enough to deserve the #3, i never wore it again. that’s how much i respect you AI.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    @ peter: No need for that.. Michael NZ is only discussing/debating this Iverson situation; no need to make this personal.

  • http://twitter.com/T2150 T2150

    Good column… To be honest I NEVER liked AI from the get-go (die-hard Spurs Fan). It took years for me to really appreciate his game.
    Admittedly I was blinded by the corn rows and tats… Even though his is not a “team” game in the textbook sense I eventually felt compelled to marvel at his exploits on the court… after the Detroit fiasco and Memphis cluster, I tended to go back to disliking him again. But, I like your take on his career and legacy… for him to have accomplished what he has at his size in the NBA is nothing short of phenomenal. It would be great for him to latch on with the Cavs, Celts or GASP- Spurs (not really), and see him get a ring. Too bad that will never happen…

  • Foobar

    @Pardeep: f*cking right.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Jay

    Pardeep: You kidding me? TOP 25 is where AI is at. Maybe even top 20

  • http://www.slamonline.com kh

    Nice piece! Thanks Lang.

  • http://FVSports Peter Nygaard

    Great stuff as always, Lang.

    Guaranteed Hall of Famer who never seems to get enough respect until people actually step back and think about his career.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova


    You are absolutely right about Allen.

    Great job.

  • MikeC.

    The whole Memphis thing was handled poorly by both sides. Iverson got hurt in training camp, didn’t practice with the team, and couldn’t take the starting gig from Conley based on outplaying him and earning the spot. The coaching staff probably didn’t know for sure how much Iverson could or should play based on the injury and lack of cohesion with the team. I wasn’t privy to any behind-closed-doors conversations between coaching staff, management and Iverson. If they told him that he’d have the chance to take the starting gig when healthy, then he’s victim of his own hubris for thinking he should get the starting nod because he’s A.I. He was the new guy. Conley was the incumbent starter. Usually it’s up to the new guy to take the spot, not have it given to him. I think A.I. should have been starting in Memphis, and I think he would have after a handful of practices(yep, I’m talkin’ about practice) and games to prove his health and develop some chemistry. I hope A.I. gets to define his own exit from the game. Maybe this season in Philly will prove to him that he has one year in the tank as a prime time player and he’ll walk away. Or it will prove what we’re all hoping, and he’ll see he has five years left as a third option or spark plug off the bench and he’ll accept either scenario on his own terms and have a proper exit.

  • MikeC.

    Iverson gets a great deal of flak for being the poster child for “what’s wrong with the NBA”. If coming up from less than nothing, going to Georgetown and earning John Thompson’s respect, going #1 overall as a midget(by NBA standards), earning ROY, All-Star MVP, MVP, First-Team All-NBA, leading a team of guys named “Who?” to the Finals and lasting about a decade longer in the L than most of us thought, then I guess I don’t know what to say to those who think there’s something wrong with him. I’m not an A.I. lover, or hater. I just appreciate that he’s a force of nature on the same level as KG, Kobe and Lebron. I enjoy watching Iverson play, and I hope he’s not done with the game, because we’re not done with him.

  • Harlem

    Nicely done Sir

  • jer

    brilliant article lang

  • http://myspace.com/rsaenz24 RoG23

    @tavoris – I am not saying ai is the only dude who cares about his legacy, just that he cares about it more than he cares about winning. Kobe, and lebron are all on championship caliber teams. I don’t even know why you brought up nash and mj. if mj cared about his legacy too much, why would he return after the most perfect retirement ever?

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Considering how Patrick Ewing’s career finished up (and how Alonzo Mourning’s “tenure” with the Nets and Raptors went), it’s possible that John Thompson’s top guys wound up with a somewhat inflated sense of self. Except for Dikembe Mutombo, of course, who is the exception to all rules. Just something I think about at 1:30 a.m. sometimes.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Russ: Don’t forget Victor Page.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Yes, and Othella Harrington. I think he recently quit on a YMCA team in Hartford.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    You Slam writers have a great job talking about basketball 2 am in the morning and wake up whenever I gotta go to school tommorow not fair.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    You Slam writers have a great job talking about basketball 2 am in the morning and wake up whenever I gotta go to school tommorow not fair.

  • J

    iverson was given a chance in Memphis. the problem is he didn’t wait long enough,.does anyone know what kind of team they will be after 3 games? who knows if in the 4th game he would be able to play the way he wants.

  • Hussman25

    Great Read Lang!

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Moose – Jennings is not the second coming of IVerson. Iverson was/is a ten time allstar with amazing scoring numbers and a warrior attitude second to none. I’m happy to discuss this again in 10 years time and see where we are at with Jennings then. But I’ll be old and grey and you’ll have to remind me.

  • Baguma


  • http://www.sixers.com 360vue

    nice piece lang. glad someones put some of the facts out about AI, should help cease some of the needless haters. AI wasn’t faultless in memphis or detroit, but this little excerpt from the 6ers homepage sums up why he was perfectly entitled to kick up a stink while there:

    “Now in his 14th NBA season, playing in 889 career games with 877 starts, Iverson is averaging 27.0 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.21 steals in 41.4 minutes per game while shooting 42.5% from the floor.”

  • http://www2.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/jstiglitz/ DIMITRIS DIAMANTIDIS


  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I expect Khalid to drop a long overdue piece on this sometime this afternoon.

  • CaTDoG2332

    People forget just how good he was at his prime, not only did he lead a team to the finals thats #2 and #3 leading scorers were Deke and Aaron McKie at like 13ppg and 11ppg, but he took them through some of the best eastern conference teams in years. Indiana close to there prime, Toronto when VC still drove the ball, and the Bucks when they had the big 3. Then game one of the finals he scored 48points against one of the best all-around teams ever. I know this isnt about what he used to do, but what im trying to say is that Iverson once took a team in which he was forced to shoot…honestly forced….to the NBA finals in one of the NBA’s most competitive seasons. That was a while ago, but I believe he has the ability to take a pretty talented(struggling but very talented) at least into the playoffs. Just give this guy the respect that he has earned in the past. Give him a chance to actually play before we make are judgments.

  • Jake

    I could care less if AI plays “team” basketball or not.He’s responsible for why I succeeded as a small basketball player in junior high until I grew in high school.I watched every 76ers game I could get my hands on and studied his every move.Say what you want about his so called attitude,his street mentality or what have you…this man is and was an amazing revolutionary basketball player.I think people have forgotten the team that surrounded him when he brought the Sixers to the Finals.They were beat up the entire year.They were also the same team that because of Allen Iverson,managed to put a dent on the Lakers perfect playoff record.Thanks for giving AI some media redemption Lang.It’s about time.


    The comments on here are a little over the top, no?

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Russ’ comment about Georgetown players was interesting.
    You could say it’s an overinflated ego, or it’s an incredible sense of confidence and stubborness. I remember that Mutombo actually forced his way out of Philly and one other squad because he wanted to play for a winner. Zo shafted the Nets and Raptors, but he was always loyal to the Heat.

  • Sean

    I disagree with one of Lang’s central premises, that the Sixers “asked” AI to shoot. They tried on multiple occasions to make him into a PG, but it never took, so they realized that the only way to actually make it work would be to let him be the 2-guard, which required a massive roster shuffle to make that work. To their credit, they created a team filled with players who would play defense w/o needing touches.

    AI doesn’t ‘defer,’ he goes from shooting a ton to shooting a lot. One of the classic moments that showed what AI could’ve been was 2001 Toronto Game 7, when he had 16 assists. That was him playing a team-game.

    Great individual player, doesn’t need your excuses

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    CaTDoG2332 made the most factually incorrect post of all-time.
    When Iverson made it to the Finals, the east was probably at its weakest. Milwaukee would probably be a fifth seed in today’s game, with Phili & the Raptors being sixth and seventh respectively. Indiana would not have even made it to the playoffs in today’s league.
    I’m not going to bother explaining why. I wrote a very old post about this, I’m going to try and find it in a minute and if I can’t, I can pretty much say that all the teams sucked, and it was pretty much just Allen Iverson vs Vince Carter and Allen Iverson vs Ray Allen… and Iverson won. Simple as that.

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    I hate that stupid “he was hood and had to look out for himself, therefore his game mimicked his life” excuse. Lots of players had a rough childhood who are team players.
    Leon Powe lost his father, then mother, and had to be the man to his 7(!) siblings. Does that mean he should take 30 shots a game and “get his own”?
    Defending AI is one thing, but using that reason is a f*cking cop-out.

  • Simmy Sosa

    This is well written and raises some good points but I just don’t think the “he had to lookout for himself first his whole life” justifies his unwillingness to evolve as a player in the twilight of his career. And I don’t doubt he could put up big numbers if given the opportunity, but what franchise would be willing to build a team around a guard on the wrong side of 32 yrs? How much success do you expect? What sense does that make long term?

  • DJ

    Allen Iverson can still get 20+ points a game in the L. I’m not an enormous fan of his, but you gotta respect how the man goes at it every night, and how he gets buckets and dimes as well as anyone. His skills aren’t diminishing; he’s been on terrible teams–he hasn’t become a terrible player. Those Pistons were on the downswing, as evidenced by this year, and the Griz…do I need to say anything? He’s gonna take it to em back on the 76ers. Watch out, because AI can still play.

  • http://courtcred.com coop

    AI days are numbered in the NBA because he has taken a beating physically. There is a new kid from Baltimore, Maryland named Josh Selby who reminds me of AI. Check out his video diary: http://www.courtcred.com/2009/12/josh-selby-welcome-to-my-world-episode-3/

    The highlights at the end are crazy

  • CaTDoG2332

    Jukai made the most ignorant comment of all time. I was not talking about the seeding, I was talking about talent and ability. Indiana was one year removed from the finals and much better than their record showed. Oneal was going into his prime and reggie was still hitting game winners (see game 1 of the 1st round that year).
    Toronto wasnt that great with talent, but they did have VC. Im not a VC fan but he was on a tear that year. He had good roll players around him, but he was almost unstoppable.
    The bucks were a lot more than just Ray Allen. There were 3 very good players on that team. Big Dog, Cassel were both in their prime, and Ray Allen was very close. Talent wise, nobody would pick them over the Sixers. But somehow AI and a bunch of “he was playing still” type of guys went through all these teams.
    Please, bother to explain why cause your “lack-of-facts” article seems pretty ignorant right now.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Okay, let’s start from the top. Because you’re wrong all the way to the bottom.
    “Talent” wise, Indiana was the best team, really. However, it wasn’t. They finished 41-41, mostly because they were coached by one of the worst coaches of all time: Isiah Thomas. Miller was 35 hedging on 36 at the time, and was seeing some of his worst career field goal AND three point percentage shootings (44% and 36% respectively) and was mostly simply coming off screens to shoot, a slower Rip Hamilton if you will. Their star player was JALEN ROSE! Jalen Rose! Good, not great. O’Neil was nowhere near his top, he was averaging 12/9. He didn’t hit all-star status till two years later, mostly because Reggie and Rose were running the team (genius idea Thomas) and O’Neil was just their to rebound and get garbage buckets. They also had Al Harrington, who was benched for 20 minutes a game and was clearly not part of the offense (40%, 14% from three, 7 points a game).
    Now, let’s go to the Raptors: fresh off trading half their roster away to make Vince Carter happy, we have a team compromised of Vince Carter and… Antonio Davis! Yes, Davis was the SECOND BEST PLAYER ON THE TEAM! Shooting an amazing 43% from the floor on mostly dunks while not breaking the 14 point barrier, Davis was brought at the end of his career (he was 32) to rebound and wound up having to do almost everything else because of the ineptitude of every single other player. The rest of the team? Well, we have a 37 year old Charles Oakley with career lows across the boad, a 36-year-old Dell Curry who was so much the shell of his former self, they would leave him out of games sometimes… Alvin Williams was the third best player on the team! He’s worse than Aaron McKie! And they took Phili to -SEVEN GAMES!-
    Then we have the bucks, with one very good player (Ray Allen, underrated), one decent player (Cassell, the very poor man’s Chauncy Billups) and Glenn Robinson… is the most overrated player of all time. Outside of shoot whenever the ball was in his hands, Robinson could do two other things: turn the ball over and get people fired so the team could afford his outrageous salary. No defense at all. Him and Ray Allen constantly fought for shots. They were a bad match. The next best player? Tim Thomas in his q-tip hair mode. Dude was all hustle, and uh, yeeeep. Of course, the Bucks also had Rafer Alston, Lindsey Hunter, Michael Redd, and Joel Przybilla… who in the playoffs, played literally half the minutes that Erving Johnson played. Yep, that OTHER Erving Johnson. Who was the only player to shoot better than 49% on that entire team. Oh, and they took Phili to seven games.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    And let’s not knock Phili here: team sucked, but it was the only team with TWO future HoFers on it, because if we switch Mutombo up with any other player on any other team outside of their bests, that team would advance. No joke, this dude was dropping close to 14 and 14 in the playoffs, with over three blocks a game. Throw that in with two GREAT perimeter defenders (Eric Snow and first-team defense Raja Bell, Aaron McKie) along with other good defenders (MacCulloch, Jones) and you had a team that could hold down the damn fort against these other eastern conference teams who, let’s face it, were all awful offensive teams.
    In the end, it was Iverson vs Vince Carter and Iverson vs Ray Allen… and Iverson, in seven games, came out on top because he was the superior player.
    So, in essence, your comment about “but he took them through some of the best eastern conference teams in years” was both ignorant and aggrivating.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Okay, I just wasted like ten minutes of my time. Are we done here?

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    What I don’t understand is how if Allen Iverson was ARGUABLY the best offensive player on the Denver Nuggets teams he played on, then how can he be looked at as a lesser player now after the past year. Not year-and-a-half. The past year. Let the man play his game. Sixers aren’t going anywhere without him, so let’s see what he can do with him. If it works? Sign him to an extension and let him ride til the wheels fall off.

  • black pinoy

    wow..dramatic finish huh lang

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Yeah, gonna have to side with Jukai on the putrid nature of the Sixers and the East at that time. Remember, JKidd as just about to lead a collection of crap players to back to back Finals in the same East.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Thanks Allenp. I’m not taking anything away from Iverson, his team was as god awful as the others and he outplayed both Ray Allen and Vince Carter (and simultaneously propelling his name past them in the pantheons of NBA legends, but to say that the east was strong back then is… well, it’s pure fantasy.

  • Dru Ha

    Ray Allen’s had a far better career. Amazing btw, that in one of Ray Allen’s first interviews after joining the celtics, he said “At this point in my career, I don’t even look at the stat sheet after a game, I don’t care about numbers or scoring or personal stuff.”

    Meanwhile, Iverson, sobbing, still talking about his level of play, starting, shots, etc …

    One’s got a ring, and will probably be the president of the players association one day. The other is Allen Iverson.

  • Dru Ha

    Or rather, president of the player’s Union meant to say.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Dru: Uh, I’d say Iverson’s career far exceeds Allen’s. Not sure why you say that.
    Allen has a ring as a third string member of the Celtics.
    Iverson has an MVP, better stats, more all-first teams, and a finals appearance where he beat Allen head to head. I know Allen’s got the ring, but if Iverson took a third string role on a championship team, he would too.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    agreed with Jukai

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Can never seem to agree with Jukai here. When he’s bashing A.I., I’m supporting him. When he is claiming that Ray Allen is a “third-string” Celtics player, I shake my head. Ray Allen AND Kevin Garnett both took “limited” roles with the Celtics franchise if you want to run the numbers. They, along with Paul Pierce, sacrificed their individual numbers to create an unstoppable tandem their first year out. Health-willing, they will do it again this year. Without Ray Allen, there is no “Banner 17,” no duck boat parade through Boston, and no “Anything Can Happen” Adidas commercial. Without Ray Allen, there is no Kevin Garnett-to-Boston trade either, as the Ray Allen acquisition is what sold Kevin Garnett on approving the trade when it was re-visited (prior to that, KG, through his agent, rejected the notion of becoming a Celtic). Ray Allen and Paul Pierce each had their best statistical season in 2006-2007. Both players failed to make the playoffs that year. This whole “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t” thing must be confusing to some. The only number Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the rest of the Celtics organization care for it the number of Championship banners they hoist. Look at Kevin Garnett. While many will claim that his drop in numbers is due to his recovering from injury, they are not far from what the healthy Kevin Garnett was providing last year. He went from being a year-in and year-out 20/10 guy to averaging between 12-18 points and 6-8 rebounds a game. He’s still a problem though.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Player A: 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks on 53% shooting
    Player B: 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1 steal, .4 blocks on 46% shooting
    Player C: 17.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, .9 steals, .2 blocks, 45% shooting
    Can you tell me who is who? I’ll give you a hint, A is Kevin Garnett and B is Paul Pierce. Both Pierce and Garnett had more points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals than Player C, all while shooting a higher percentage. They all played the same amount of minutes.
    So, if player A is the main guy, and player B is the second banana, what would you consider player C? Just curious.
    Not saying the Celts would have WON without player C… but as you said, men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. I just gave you numbers.
    Let’s see if we can agree on them.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Apparently you misconstrued what I meant when I wrote “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” My point there is like Jumpoff Joe Budden said, “I hate to break it to you, numbers always lie.” Only number they cared about was Banner 17. Now? Banner 18. I’m pretty sure all three of them would rather average single digit points and shoot 20% from the field if it meant they win another championship this year than have career scoring averages and come up short when it matters.

    They are called “The Big 3″ for a reason.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    They’re called the big three because that’s what Bird, McHale, and Parish were called…
    I get what you’re saying, that they played that way because that’s what it took to win… but like, don’t you think if Pierce and Garnett outplayed Ray Allen to win, doesn’t that say something? Pierce always had the ball in his hand in the fourth quarter. Garnett controlled the offense. Ray Allen was there to spot-up three and act as a secondary offensive player… y’know?

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    I don’t think you watch Celtics basketball if you think Ray Allen did as you said. This is my disagreement. It’s not like he was averaging far less points. Paul Pierce was averaging ONE MORE BUCKET a game, and Garnett didn’t even average that much more in terms of ppg. Ray Allen is the Celtics second-best penetrator and their best finisher when it comes to going to the basket. Even if you watched last night’s game, while he missed a few contact-influenced lay-ups, you would see that Ray Allen gets to the rim whenever he so chooses to. Rondo is the only one who is a better penetrator, and Ray is actually a better finisher than Rajon is when goign to the basket. But again, Paul Pierce averaged one more bucket a game. KG averaged a free-throw more.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    For the record, Paul Pierce averaged 13.7 fga’s in the 2007-2008 Championship season. Ray Allen? 13.5. They each averaged the same shot attempts but, as you mentioned, Ray had a slightly worse field goal percentage that season.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Yes, and one averaged 19.6 points on 46% shooting and one averaged 17.4 points on 45% shooting. This isn’t sizable enough to say Pierce did more than Allen. Luckily, the other four statistics also lean way more heavily in favor of Paul Pierce, and it was pretty much established that Paul Pierce was the leader of that championship team from day one, meaning Allen was the third voice… since KG controlled the defense.
    Ray Allen was the third-banana on the Celtics. it was not even. It really wasn’t. I didn’t watch every Celtics game, but I saw enough to make this conclusion.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Again, Paul Pierce averaged .2 more field goal attempts than Ray Allen. Regardless of the roles you want to give each of the players, that’s all that matters when it comes to who was assigned what role. Taking into consideration that Ray Allen had spent an entire career being the “go-to-guy,” imagine the adjustment period and the humility it took for him to move out of his comfort zone (especially since he is self-admitted OCD), I can do nothing but commend the man for sacrificing his own game for team-betterment. Your argument that Paul Pierce was the leader is also suspect since it’s been cohesively agreed upon that Kevin Garnett is, in fact, the Celtics leader. Especially since Paul Pierce has always been one to lead by his play rather than be a vocal leader or the “fall guy.” This is why he thrived when Antoine Walker was in Boston, because ‘Toine was the one to shoulder blame and shoulder the weight while Paul was left to play his game. This is inarguable. It’s well-documented.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Really? Because Kevin Garnett himself said that he was offered the leadership role, but he let Pierce keep it. Just because Garnett is the vocal leader on the court, doesn’t mean it’s KG speaking in the locker room and in the huddle. That was all Pierce, bro.
    So I find your entire logic suspect. .2 more field goal attempts means Pierce got to the line more as well, but you’re still only focusing offensively when Pierce was more involved in rebounding, passing, and playing defender more than Ray Allen was. Period.
    And I think Ray Allen’s ABILITY to put his ego aside and BE the third man on the team (he was the third man on the team) is admirable, and certainly more valuable than AI, who can’t even take a second-man role… but going back to my original point, AI had far more success as ‘the man’ than Ray Allen did.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Dude, Paul Pierce has NEVER been a “leader.” After ‘Toine left, Truth struggled mightily, not so much because of losing (Celtics were still a playoff team during the Ricky Davis era, and Pierce lost more than he won his first several years with ‘Toine). Truth struggled more because he had to shoulder the burden of winning or losing and that was not part of his character. Like I said, this is all more than well-documented. There’s a reason ‘Toine was so valuable to the Celtics when he was here. There’s a reason that Truth wanted him back ever since the day he was traded to Dallas. Kevin Garnett is far more a leader than Employee #8. It’s just KG’s humble character to succumb to Pierce through the media by saying “This is Paul’s team.” As the elder-Celtic, having been there for the longest tenure, of course it’s “Paul’s team.” Everyone in Boston, the media, fanbase, you name it… They all agree in unison that Kevin Garnett is the Celtics leader. That’s not up for debate, nor is it questionable. That was evident last year in the playoffs. Likewise, I have no argument whatsoever with your last paragraph. I am just not a fan of anybody labelling Ray Allen a “third-string” anything.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    What’s wrong with being the third banana when the first two bananas are Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
    Robert Parish was the third banana, but number one and two were McHale and Bird.
    And before folks say Parish wasn’t all that, y’all need to check out what he was doing before he came to the Celtics.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Allenp, most unfortunately only remember 90′s Robert Parish. The Chief was that dude. Great guy too, I’ve met him a few times.

  • http://fjkld.com Jukai

    Maybe third string was a bad word, since third-string is usually used as a generalization for a group of players who are not primary or secondary players on a team. I meant the third most important person on the team.

  • doobie

    great stuff lang. i love allen, and this is exactly how i feel about him.