Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda…
A retrospective look at the rise and fall of the PGs of the ’00s.
by Quinn Peterson / @QwinFNP
If you were to talk to someone a half-dozen years ago or so, you’d be hard-pressed in convincing them that between Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas and Baron Davis not a single game would be played in the ’11-12 NBA season.
But oh, how quickly they fall—about as quickly as they crossed and darted by defenders. They should have, could have, and would have won multiple Championship rings and endure long-lasting NBA legacies between them… but they didn’t.
This is certainly not to bash any of these guys for not being able to make it, but rather to simply point out the unfortunate, yet similar, paths each of their careers has taken. (Thankfully, there’s currently a strong wave of point guards tearing up the League right now to help us forget. Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, and young bloods Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio are all filling the void nicely.)
But as I read Bomani Jones’ piece on Iverson last week—who’s now supposedly going to Puerto Rico—and hearing the continuous rumors surrounding the potential returns of both Davis and Arenas, it sparked me to think about the hapless demise that’s come over many of my favorite PGs from the early ‘00s.
In the past couple of years, the careers—and lives, in some cases—of Baron Davis, Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Allen Iverson and Gilbert Arenas have all taken nose-diving turns for the worst.
Sure, players fall off all the time. But, the handful of aforementioned were guys who, to many others and myself, were the people’s champs from their college days through their early professional careers. Little guys who played with heart, carried their respective teams on their shoulders for a time, had tight handles, dropped dimes, could score and were known to put someone on a poster on more than one occasion. Players who, in theory, should still be in the League today as starters or key contributors—but they’re not…shoulda, coulda, woulda.
Instead, all of them are watching from home, except for Davis, who has a suit on and a front-row seat every night.
Rather than going out on top like, say, Jason Kidd or Gary Payton who capped their careers with rings, each of these guys has been put out of the League on terms other than their own. Their legacies came to a screeching halt, with very little to show for their careers (save Iverson) other than YouTube videos and nostalgic conversation.
How each of them came to this point is hard to say, as none of their demises have been identical. But some of it, at least in part, can be attributed to ego in everycase, which at the same time is what we all loved (or hated) them for.
Iverson’s demise has been well documented.
Marbury’s reared its ugly head back in Minnesota when instead of playing alongside Kevin Garnett, he decided he wanted to be the star of the show and was promptly shipped to New Jersey.
Francis’ was clear before he was even officially on an NBA roster, as he refused to play for any Canadian team.
Davis’ love for Hollywood and non-basketball hobbies is cool, but something that many would argue has taken away from his game and contributed to his knack for being hurt and out of shape.
And nothing is more indicative of an enlarged ego than Gilbert’s gall to bring firearms into an NBA locker room.
So, is karma from the basketball gods in effect? It’s quite possible.
As we look at where they are now, it’s certain that none are in a place that we—or they—would have ever expected them to be.
Davis is still earning bread with the Knicks, but is yet to suit up for a game this year, and it’s unclear if he ever will. We’ve seen him more in that Blake Griffin Kia Commercial than we have on a basketball court in the last two years. Many seemed to be looking at him as the Knicks’ savior, but that was Pre-Lin. His role with the Knicks, if any, and how he will close out his career remains to be seen.
A couple of years ago, Marbury hit rock bottom, starring in WorldStarHipHop videos eating vaseline. He’s since gotten things back together and is now playing in China, where he was last seen getting sauced by JR Smith (though he did finish with 45, 12 and 10). It’s great to see him hooping again, no doubt. But, his NBA career is done.
Steve Francis’ playing days, as far as I know, ended in Beijing in 2010 where he was cut after just six games. For a time, he was one of the most exciting players in the League and his one-year stint at Maryland was one of the most entertaining in recent memory. Stops in Orlando and New York, and a short return to Houston signaled the end, though and it’s a wrap on his NBA career at this point, as well.
Without question, Gilbert’s story is the most bizarre. From ’05-’07, I’m not sure there was a better pure scorer in the League. Injuries were the start of his downfall, however. After that it was the gun incident, then he was traded to Orlando, then he was amnestied, and now he’s waiting for a team to pick him up. Whether someone will, and how effective he can be if they do, remains to be seen. His career isn’t over just yet, but if he doesn’t play this season, there’s a high chance it will be.
AI’s story is the most tragic, as he’s essentially been blackballed by the League. Iverson was undoubtedly one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game, but his passion for winning and silencing critics proved to be both his gift and his curse. Now, he’s allegedly going to be taking his talents to Puerto Rico. His admitted refusal to come off the bench in past years makes any kind of NBA return a long shot.
Luckily, Nash, Chauncey Billups and Andre Miller (who all came in the League at the same time as the ones mentioned above) stepped up and provided the League with some quality, steady guard play.
I’d love to see any of these guys make a successful return to the NBA. Unfortunately, instead of talking about how great AI, Franchise, BDiddy, Starbury and Hibachi were, all we’re left with is sentimental tales of what they’ve become and what they should have, could have or would have been.