The title of this column says it all, Allen. You got what you wanted, but before I go any further, let me first say that I’m happy that you’re happy — you’re happy, right? If you’re really happy, I’m happy for you, especially since that means that you can finally concentrate on playing ball.
Part of me is ambivalent about you, though. I want to be honest with you, because we know that you aren’t very trusting of the media and rightfully so. You haven’t always been given a fair shake by members of the press (but then again, you didn’t always give yourself a good chance with others, either), and so I want to be honest for your benefit. Part of me is happy that you can hopefully just sit in where you’re at and do you, because you know how to do you and do it well; another part of me leans toward apathy about your situation, because you helped to revive the nonsense of your recent trepidation. It’s not any disrespect toward you–it’s just that I’ve seen you since college when I was only a young child myself and I’ve watched you get drafted with the Reebok pin on your lapel and I’ve witnessed all the accolades and unfortunate misfortunes that you have received.
When you left Philly in 2006, Allen, you were just sick of the organization and the team…and the organization was sick of you. You went to Denver, though, and instead of acting up, you silenced the critics that said you were going to be a malcontent for your whole career. Going to Colorado and going west was helping you, and you seemingly embraced the situation. Now, I’ll say this as well, just like I said before–your current style of play, to date, is not conducive to winning a championship, unless you are built around to the degree of exact specifications–but honestly, Allen, no team has the money or time to do that with you now. That doesn’t mean that you’re not great, because you’re one of the greatest and most unique players of all time, but what it does mean is that you are going to have to start thinking outside of the box, Allen. Denver didn’t win anything, still, even with your being the mightiest of the mighty. No championship series of any kind, conference or otherwise.
What I’m saying is that you can take the Philadelphia 76ers to the Playoffs. You’ve done it before with less, and I know you have the will to do so still, but please consider thinking outside of the box for a minute. Not every super-duper talent is going to go out like Jordan with the 18-foot fadeaway. It usually never happens, so you can’t think that it’s a certainty for you. Look at your draft classmates of ’96–Ray Allen is not better than you (though he’s still a Hall of Fame talent); now, did he average 26 points per in winning a title with Boston? No. Did Steve Nash complain the times when everything didn’t go exactly his way when he was busy getting cheated out a championship match-up pushing his team to the Western Conference Finals, or during those slow, depressing years of The Big Cactus in Arizona? No. Even Kobe learned to how to change his game, and this was after winning 3 championships with the Lakers.
Right now, you don’t have to worry about the championship for this season — it’s not going to happen in Philadelphia, I’m sorry to tell you (and you probably already know this in your heart of hearts). Still, if you want a chance to be a champion in the coming years, please sir, just remember to think outside of the box. The world had to think outside of the box for you, remember? The world who knew of Allen Iverson saw a young, poor, African American kid with a world of talent, and rough enough around the edges that it even made Ben Grimm think twice about throwing stones. We don’t have to go through this whole anecdote, but people just didn’t know what to make of you and how to treat you, shamefully so… but the world that knew of Allen Iverson came around. It decided to think outside of the box in growing with you, and soon, you were embraced by the masses.
You’ve given a lot to the game of basketball and to the people that respect and love the game, but you have to evolve, AI, and it’s not limited to your growth away from the court. You’re going to have to either embrace the possibility of being different for your sake and best interests or staying the same in the wake of your career’s demise. That doesn’t mean that you should lose your integrity, because a part of being a wise person is knowing when to say, “It’s better to do this another way.” You don’t have to be any less of yourself, but being a better basketball player and a true winner requires sacrifice in other ways than just your being selfish. We know that you played more than a half-decade of your NBA career battered. And you what? That’s honorable of you and shows your dedication, but you know what else? Tough! At least you had the choice to make that decision. Some players never had that option to come out and do that with some of their injury histories. You have to decide to be better for the whole rather than being better for the sole self.
You don’t have any extra men left, Allen. You’ve used all your Mario tokens, your “1-Ups” are in the tank. This is your last life. Remember that you have the power to change for the better as an NBA basketball player. You are a living legend. Show the world that you’re better, that you are a man of wisdom, that you have patience. For your sake, don’t eff this up. Your legacy is still being written.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.