Superstar treatment is even more pronounced in Europe.
by Kevin Owens / @Waiting4Godunk
While grooming the sweet mustache I am growing for my Movember to Remember contest, I overheard an ESPN analyst say that Allen Iverson postponed his debut for Besiktas because he felt he wasn’t yet in shape. This coming a few days after his delayed arrival because of a missed flight. That is when I truly realized the double standard that exists between superstars like Iverson and every other player in Europe.
Now obviously there are some small discrepancies amongst the talent pool overseas. Some players are on the cusp of the NBA and some, like Iverson, already have NBA experience. A select group of players are just looking to postpone the real world for a few more years. Still you would be surprised how close in talent the majority of European imports truly are. I have friends who make $150,000 a month and some who make $1,500, yet they are not that different talent-wise. Iverson will make nearly $300,000 a month…like I said, discrepancies.
Now don’t get me wrong, Iverson is incredible. Being a Sixers fan my entire life, I’ve developed an appreciation for AI and all he has done for this city. That being said, at 35, he is not the same Iverson. It’s not a knock; it’s just a fact of life. Duncan is not the same Duncan, Nowitzki is not the same Nowitzki… I am not the same Kevin Owens (I’m better). Ask a handful of American point guards currently playing overseas, if they think they can compete with an aging Iverson. I guarantee they all respond with a “yes.”
The problem is amongst this handful of players, none would have made it to Turkey. Once they missed their flight, the team would have told them, “Thanks but no thanks.” And if by some stretch of the imagination they were given a second chance, yet showed up out of shape, they would then be given their pink slips. And I get it, Iverson sells tickets. Every game Besiktas plays this year will be sold out. Every Turkish Cup game, every regular-season game and every Euro Cup game will be at max capacity. But understand, they are paying him $2 million a year… and are playing in an arena that only holds 3,200 fans.
Iverson will also get a share of the advertising revenues, not to mention performance bonuses. In addition, he will receive a luxury car, live in a luxurious apartment all while not paying luxury taxes. I spoke briefly to my agent about such a deal for myself; however, the phone cut out midway through in what he describes as “reception issues.” Overall, in terms of the European Market, this is a cherry deal.
But don’t be surprised if by Christmas, Iverson is back stateside. Even the most experienced European veterans can encounter culture shock when traveling abroad, let alone Iverson…especially to Eastern Europe. I am aware Iverson turned down an offer in China for similar reasons. I am predicting these two factors play a role in his decision to leave Europe within the year.
Let’s start with the extremely passionate fans. They are on their feet the entire game chanting and waving flags. Occasionally the passion spills on to the court. My brother, who played for Galatasaray — a team in the same league as Besiktas — told me a story about a game against an arch rival in which police lined the rows separating one set of fans from the other. While walking off the court a large faucet, ripped from one of the bathrooms, was hurled in his direction by the opposing fans. Thankfully it missed its intended target, crashing to the hardwood just feet away. Now I assure you, if AI gets pelted with a large piece of piping, he will be on the first flight home.
Another issue is the playing style. I have seen first hand the toughness of Iverson and the abuse his body has endured. He has been the recipient of many hard fouls during his NBA tenure. Now he is going to Turkey, a country whose national team is known as the “12 Giant Men.” It is a place where hard fouls go unpunished by local referees. Too many “no call” fouls and Iverson might grow tired of Turkey.
Iverson aside, European teams continue to bend the rules for the so called “superstars” of basketball. The rest of us are held to a sometimes unreasonable set of demands, all while making significantly less than some of our counterparts. Throughout my career, I have always walked on eggshells.
If I was hurt, I played through the pain. Some countries will release you based on injury, then blame another factor such as “performance.” I’ve practiced sick, I’ve practiced hurt and I have never been late. I stay out of trouble and always participate in any community service the team was involved in. All of this while maintaining a strong performance on the court. I have done whatever I could to set a good example for my teammates. But the jackasses who run many European teams don’t care about any of that. They want a name. You’d be surprised at how many “big time” players have jobs based strictly on hype.
So while the Joe Nobodies of European basketball, continue to endure all the B.S. and toe the company line, the superstars are held to a different set of rules. We tolerate the small apartments and unreliable vehicles. We patiently dodge elbows and large pipes while trying at all costs to keep our jobs. I wish that my body developed earlier and I was a highly recruited, overly hyped player. I would then be set for life in Europe.