The Answer’s Debut Leaves Only Questions
Which may not be such a bad thing.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
Allen Iverson’s first game in the Turkish league was nationally televised. And why wouldn’t it be—the story is far more compelling than a single game. It’s a career—and lifetime—of breaking boundaries and being trapped within them. It’s a personal trajectory of highs so high they seemed without limitations and lows that brought a vulnerability that was almost uncomfortable to witness.
An 11-time All-Star, who was voted into last season’s all-star game, is playing overseas and not even with the most elite competition. Iverson’s career was always an unstable balance between him calling the shots and having the shots called for him. Amid all the sides, somewhere was the truth. I just don’t know if we ever found it.
And did Iverson—the Answer—ever really find an answer? How talent can be so exhilarating and life so humbling? How the NBA is a privilege, not a right, even for those whose skills place them there? Ultimately, like everything else, the NBA is a business. While it means more to most involved, one has to be careful with how much more. There needs to be life after basketball or even amongst it.
The past two seasons, Iverson rejected the idea of coming off the bench in Detroit and Memphis—and then kissed the floor in Philadelphia. Paradoxical, when you think that if playing the game meant so much, it wouldn’t be about who started the game, but rather who finished it.
Now, Iverson started his Turkish league debut and sat two of the four quarters, including the fourth, which he spent on the bench. It is hard not to find the irony in traveling thousands of miles to reach the same fate he tried painfully to avoid in the United States. But pride is a difficult thing to reconcile, and perhaps the only way to overcome it is through lack of other options. The world is watching for Iverson’s reaction, waiting for the first mention of playing time or the first hint at pride. Everyone is waiting to see how much the chance to play really means, especially when it is not on his terms.
I’ve seen people attribute his Turkish league contract to money issues and I’ve seen the word broke floating around. Maybe people don’t understand why someone of his stature would make the move overseas. Maybe they want to give him something tangible to play for. Money is a private matter and I will leave it at that. But I will say this—Iverson plays basketball in front of us. He doesn’t write checks in front of us, we’ve never seen his bank accounts and as far as I know, he’s never asked any member of the media to lend him money. Speculations can be dangerous, and assuming always leads to assumptions—the definition of which equals a guess.
As a basketball fan, I expected to see Iverson play more in his debut and even have the impact I have been accustomed to seeing. Though, that would hardly be a fitting end to such an intricate story. It will be interesting to see how much weight his name carries in Turkey, how much of his step he can regain—and how quickly—after a long layoff, and whether he will become a fully integrated and depended upon member of his new club.
His second game with the club—and debut in the Turkish league—is hardly enough to judge him or his basketball future, especially when we know so little about what’s really going on. With that, it seems as if we are once again where we started.
While distance doesn’t damper the interest of NBA fans everywhere, it is important to know how much we don’t know about the situation. If Iverson doesn’t have the answer, it is safe to assume we don’t either.