Thursday, November 19th, 2009 at 2:29 pm  |  27 responses

What’s Next for Allen Iverson?

There seems to be more questions than answers.

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.


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 Appeal described 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.

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  • http://www.slamonline.com kh

    I couldn’t have expressed my feelings any better! Thank you Bryan, nicely done!
    Hope your wife and little girl are feeling better

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    realgm.com is saying he just confirmed that he will sign with the Knicks.

  • toon

    he could go to the bulls. they need another go to player.

  • tavoris

    Bryan, great article. One error: he wasn’t “released” from jail. He was pardoned, and the conviction was overturned. For all intents & purposes, he is an innocent man (in that situation).

  • Big Marv

    Hope the family get’s well, nice journalism there. Damn AI, remember from your rookie season to 2001, dream season. Bubba changed the NBA, and stayed true to himself. Gone were the perfect smile and suits from Mike (Jordan) and he gave us (regular folk, I wanted to say us black people, but let’s leave the race outta this) someone just like us. Someone who we could identify ourselves with. In all the highs and lows, and the way we look and dress, from tats to baggy clothes, and still be a superstar everybody embraced. From the hood to the suburbs to hell world wide. Come Europe and you still see Sixers jerseys with that number 3.
    From Rotterdam in The Netherlands I hereby salute you AI, and succes to you wherever you go.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Nice work here, B.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    This is “how many articles about all Iverson can we write” week? Solid article though. I good summary of his past and of the present. Nice piece.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    all = allen

  • shari

    Great take. And thanks for leaving race out of it. I am a white woman from Houston, been a basketball fan my entire life and an AI fan his entire career. It’s the heart and passion and commitment to stay who you are that I always loved. Saw some great quotes from Larry Brown who said that what made him great is also what created his problems.
    The way I see it, he just doesn’t know how to be anything except who he is and that’s what I always loved him for. Hope he gets a shot with D’Antoni or playing with DWade in Miami.
    It would be sad beyond belief for his career to end with the Memphis debacle.

  • http://www.sixers.com 360vue

    I second wayno; AI article-fest this week, but nevertheless an enjoyable read so whatevs.
    Gotta say though, AI literally made me wear a shooting sleeve for a few years, and maybe it was just an AI placebo but I swear my shooting was better for it… good to seee the crossover over lue, literally when he stepped over him i cannot express the respect i felt for AI, ahh i briefly hoped we would win that series, fcuk!
    As for AI mishandled each situation, it was definitely lamentable, but I genuinely think it was because he felt he got mistreated… i know none of the pistons roster were pleased when he got there, and the management did misuse him… and well memphis was just ridiculous, they had no excuse for not starting him, sorry but conley aint ready YET, and if they were so worried about giving up a few of OJs minutes why even bother signing AI?

  • j4zzm4n

    i just hope he goes out with a bang rather than a whimper. forever a legend and my favourite player ever. too bad it went sour for two years but he inspired me.

  • andrew

    A fallen hero…

  • Farai

    Why were teams reluctant to bring in AI when he has such a phenomenal scoring record? Here is my take on it:

    The Nuggets winning record improved with AI, while he and Melo proved that scorers could co-exist.
    However my theory is that Billup’s success with the Nuggets created doubts in some about Iverson’s value as a team player. I believe their success under Billups is more to do with Billups being a better fit for what they needed as a team rather than Iverson being a failure there. Also the Nuggets underwent maturation and key injured players returned to full health in the season Chauncey joined.
    Iverson has matured and he is now not the guy from the 76 ers era. Detroit was just a bad fit and the drama there has been over-played in the media. The media should have focused on Dumars foolhardy in shipping Chauncey to Denver & the hiring of a rookie coach in their rebuilding phase.
    My view is: the media has somehow conspired against Iverson by overplaying his reluctance to come off the bench? Iverson as a bench player was first mooted in the media corridors of power.
    There is a short memory where Iverson is concerned. Just 2 seasons ago he had the 3rd highest PPG after Kobe & Lebron. The Detroit season is not worthy of review, then in 2009-2010 everyone is clamouring for a 6th man role? That’s a record deterioration in his ability there don’t you think? Or is he just plagued by a negative perception?

    Many refer to Rasheed’s coming off the bench as exemplary for Iverson but don’t you think that these two cannot be compared in that manner. Rasheed is a very good player & a valuable asset for any top team but he is not an ex Franchise player, 1st draft pick, MVP of the year or All Star MVP. Yes he has a ring but his star power is not in the same league as Iverson. I doubt Rasheed would agree to a bench role in Memphis either.

    I think the media has cost Iverson a place in a top team with the consistently negative reporting. This has sowed seeds of doubt in potential suitors. Detroit also sullied Iverson’s reputation with how they handled his time there – not to mention the coach was clearly out of his depth.

    Iverson is still a top player in that league but he needs a team that will embrace him for who he is without trying to change him. Maybe that team doesn’t exist in the NBA but as a fan of Iverson I would rather see him retire than endure the sight of him coming off the bench for an ‘also ran’ like Memphis. It’s an insult to what this future HoF has achieved as his scoring skills and entertainment value are clearly superior to most in that league.


    Farai Makumbe:

    New Zealand

  • adbphilly

    Wouldn’t it be something if for one last time, he could put on that sixers uni with the finals patch, and be in the staples center, with dikembe mutombo, eric snow, aaron mckie, and tyrone hill, and drop 40 some points on tryon lue? I swear if that day were to ever be relived, it would be one of the greatest moments of my life. In other words, i think allen should join the team that made him who he is today, the philadelphia 76ers. It just seems right. Moses did it. Why not allen.

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

    its obvious what he should be doing – coaching.

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

    @Farai – I was reading along with you until you decided that the pistons season wasn’t worth talking about… why not? How he hadnled that situation was as important if not MORESO because it came along more recently… I argue that AI was actually more mature, at a younger age because he recognised then, what was expected of him, to lead night in night out and leave it all on the floor…he went and did that and his heralded statistics more than prove it. WHat is expected of him today though, appears to be of a different nature – coaches/managers don’t want to restructure entire teams around his offensive attacks, whether he is capable of that or not is not the issue, but its just not the direction that all the teams that have wanted his services in recent times (if any?) have wanted to go. They have wanted him to fit in, to adjust and to lead with understanding as any/every other veteran of the game learns to do….

    REMEMBER THIS IMPORTANT POINT: Coaches and managers have never openly said they expect more ppg from him, more dominance and more top tier activity…..the onyl one that expects that at this stage in his career is… THE ANSWER HIMSELF. The only problem is his own sense of contribution and impact.

    2ND PORT TO CONSIDER: Every team in the league would love having AI, if he was willing to fit in with their plans and identity and contribute THE WAY THEY ARE ASKING HIM TO…. but no he wants to contribute on his own terms. This inturn will only lead to the downfall of his own greatness and legacy.

  • Forrest Crunk

    Farai you speak the truth

  • tavoris

    wayno, the site gets more traffic that way. It’s a proven fact up here that AI gets more hits than any other player. page hits=greater ad revenue, as advertisers are more likely to get traffic thru an AI article (as opposed to Luke Ridenour).

  • KG

    he is on the bench so much , can he even play anymore ? i dont think its a big deal if he retires . his attitude is whats ruining his career . he used to be a great but he still thinks he’s the old a.i. and he’s not . give it up.

  • Michael Scorn

    @DACRE- Maybe not a head coach, but he would be a good practice coach.

  • Sturm Drang

    There’s an article about Chauncey Billups that shows how AI is just plain and simple a bad influence on young players.


    It shows that the real problem with AI is that, however talented and passionate he is, he just isn’t very professional. He’s a bad influence. He goes out partying until 3 am (and drags the youngsters with him) rather than coming in early and doing shooting drills and working out with them the way Kobe Bryant does. He doesn’t take the consummate no-BS approach of a veteran like Chauncey, who has half the talent but a lot more heart and maturity.

    The problem with AI is that he has been so talented, he never had to grow up.

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


  • http://www.djulienmusic.com D.Julien

    Wow great article here bro. My take on the AI situation: http://www.djulienmusic.com/2009/11/22/allen-iverson/

  • StopHatin AI

    My Take on this: Stern Kicked AI out of the NBA

    Why else would ppl want AI to come off the bench, when Shaq is starting over Big Z 4 the cavs? or VINCanity in Orlando? Why aren’t they playing off the bench?
    Since when was it OK to pass up on SUPERSTARS to develop your sucky rookies? I mean after High School Basketball, College Ball, and the D-league, THE NBA is not a PRACTICE RINK!!!!!!!!
    Something stinks, and I pray someone blows the whistle on it.

  • scorp99cam

    “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?”

    Dominant as Shaq? You must be joking

  • http://freshnproper.com Q

    This is dope, B. Good ish…

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Sorry I missed this when you wrote it. I didn’t go as far as you, but my hero worship was still there as a youngin’. You grow up and you can be honest when a cat effs up, but I still make a point to ride for him.