NBA / Jul 13, 2010 / 1:30 pm

Is There Room for Allen Iverson in the NBA?

Allen Iverson, Dime #6

For editing purposes, The Allen Iverson Story would flow so much better had we gone straight from February 1993 to Summer 2010.

In that version, we open with a phenomenally talented high school ballplayer whose hoop dreams are derailed by a moment of rage and a history of racism in the South. Then end with the same ballplayer, now an old man in sports terms, frantically trying to convince an NBA team — any NBA team — to give him a chance before his skills become just a memory. We can reconcile that version of the story: The talent was always there, but that hubris, that stubbornness, and the breaks of life were ultimately his downfall. A dream that lived and died in VA.

But when we stick the middle part of the script into A.I.’s story, things become muddled and make less sense. There’s no flow. It becomes the basketball version of Vanilla Sky. The talented dude who’s a god on the playground but a nobody in the League is the story of 10,000 ballplayers from Paris, France, to Paris, Texas. It’s Cory Hightower. Tyrone “Alimoe” Evans. Jimmie “Snap” Hunter. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell. It’s men we know, mistakes we know, and we warn our kids not to emulate.

But what if that ballplayer gunning for his last shot at an NBA life brings with him a resume that leaves no doubt he is one of the greatest players the League has ever seen? What if he is a certified MVP, four-time scoring champion, three-time All-NBA First Team? What if he is only two years removed from dropping 26 points, seven assists and two steals per game for a playoff team?

In that case, how do the roadblocks to NBA employment still stand in Allen Iverson’s way? How, in a summer where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson have dominated free-agency talk, is A.I. rarely mentioned? How did Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake become more coveted than Allen Iverson? How do teams peg A.I. as undisciplined when he’s led eight teams to the NBA playoffs? How is he still considered selfish when he’s averaged 6.2 assists per game for his career — higher than Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and famed distributor Walt Frazier? How do you say he only plays playground D when he ranks 12th all-time in steals?

It doesn’t make sense, A.I. being treated like an unproven headcase when he’s spent his entire career proving he can succeed against the odds. And yet, it absolutely makes sense.

Iverson never has been and likely still isn’t ready to bend nor break. The same confidence that allows a 6-foot wisp to grind his way to more than 24,000 points against NBA defenses geared to stop him breeds the same cockiness that chokes out a man’s humility. If we can look into Allen Iverson’s young-ish face and see the same kid who flew over Marcus Camby‘s head and sent Jordan’s head spinning, odds are he’s also looking in the mirror and believing he’s still got It.

But you have to take a step back. That’s why Derek Fisher has five NBA championships, why Mike Bibby is still a starter in the League, why Anthony Carter is more likely to get signed this summer than Allen Iverson. They have a willingness to step back and be Just Another Guy instead of The Guy.

Please believe, Anthony Carter was not born a role player. He came from the same bleak circumstances in Atlanta that A.I. emerged from in Virginia. His mother was on drugs, and seven of his uncles did time. Carter dropped out of high school as a freshman and ran in pay-for-play games funded by local dealers before getting his act together, getting back into school and eventually carving a path to the NBA. And all along, he was The Man on his teams. But when making a living became more the priority, Carter accepted his perception and took a different role.

After a season split between Memphis and Philadelphia that may have done irreparable damage to his reputation, Iverson wants to play again. On July 5, while LeBron and D-Wade and the rest were in the middle of being wooed by any team that could conceivably afford them, A.I. posted on his Twitter page: “I want to return to the NBA this season, and help any team that wants me, in any capacity that they feel that I can help. I’m disappointed, and I owe my fans more than what they have seen of me the last couple seasons. However, now that my family is healthy and rock solid, I can concentrate fully on doing what I do best!”

But he’s said the right things before. He said them when he signed with the Grizzlies, an experiment that lasted three games before falling apart. He said them when he returned to Philly, where his tenure also ended quietly.

If he gets one more chance, this is A.I.’s time to prove he can adapt. Even if he truly believes he can drop 26-7-2, just play the role. Agree to come off the bench, get signed, THEN you can make them remember how good you are with how you play. But you can’t impress the boss if you never get in the door.

And we all know people like that: Fiercely stubborn ones who don’t want to conform, if only temporarily, even if it will ultimately provide them with what they want. That strength of conviction is what made Allen Iverson a Hall of Fame athlete, but it is also what may end his career earlier than it should have ended.

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  • NTstateOFmind

    AI will be playing in China before he faces the reality of his situation. its a shame really- dude can be a good role player on a contender.

  • Bruce

    No questions about his skills ever but it his attitude. For the good of the team, be the 6th man! It will enhance your career and legacy!

  • “Tha Boddy” Wall for one and Wall for all!

    Teams need to respect AI he is still better than over 80% of the current NBA players…Go to a playoff team compete and get that ring AI it’s gonna happen

  • brado

    Utah needs a shooter. If there’s any coach out there that has a hope of getting the most of AI and keeping him inline it would be Sloan – it’s just a matter of whether or not he wants the task.

    Overall, based off need I think AI would be great running with Utah.

  • Otto

    Wow. Very, very well written article.

  • drizzlerulz

    i have a hard time believing that AI will ever be able to swallow his pride to come off the bench. he just isnt made that way. its really too bad.

  • oo wee

    it’s iverson’s attitude. it’s obvious he can still be a solid contributor to any team in the nba. the problem is that he doesn’t want to play the role that the coach wants him to play.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/703154723/the-soulchorea-project?pos=1 Kermit The Washington

    AI’s biggest strengths have become his biggest weaknesses. That’s the bottom line. The league has changed a lot, and AI’s game hasn’t…like, a flashy, lightning-quick, high-flying point guard is sitting on your BENCH, two or three rotations deep. But AI ain’t okay with sitting in that chair, he wants to be a superstar and won’t accept anything else. But I totally respect his passion for the game and his desire to be great; everytime I see that clip of him crying and explaining to that kid that he doesn’t need the accolades and stuff, I wanna give him another chance.

    Aw, shucks…come on back, AI…I’m sure we got a spot for you out here somewhere…*tear*…LOL

  • baller3

    AI should come back to Denver. Or be like everyone else and jump on another top team/contender. AI is still one of top in league he was just wasting his time and talents on a Memphis or Phila.

  • lee

    On one hand I see a guy who got all those pooints shooting about 42% (thats why he’s considered more slefish that the others) but every allstar game I’ve seen him in it looks like he likes playing with other stars. I’m not an AI fan but part of me thinks he could do things with Wade/Bron/Bosh. Most of me thinks he’d be a cancer.

  • baller3

    AI ego is about his skills on basketball court but Wade/Bron/Bosh ego is more about fame off the court. He was not asked to come off bench on a contender or even playoff team. He might act differently on a Miami or LA type team.

  • Axion

    cavs…..gilbert can prove he is not racist…lol

  • karizmatic

    great read man! I hope he gets picked up by the Heat just for the heck of it, well either the Heat or the Lakers, just because.

  • fallinup

    @ 4

    AI sure aint no shooter. He’s a scorer. And an old one at that. If he bit the bullet, shut his trap, and just played to play… he could easily get into a good situation… like MIA for example. But like most have said… he’s gotta check the ‘tude.

    Cause he kept my interest in the league immediately after MJ left the CHI. I’d love to see him win a chip. You gotta respect the early NBA version of AI. He was a monster.

  • aidee333

    i hope ai go’s to the heat he can still play all he needs is this chance 2 prove it then he can have 5 more years in the nba………..

  • JBaller

    He should be on a team that has no good second unit scorers. He should come off the bench and be given the whole scoring burden. I think it would suit him well. You can’t win with only one scoring option on your first team, but there have been a lot of successful 6th men who have the green light for the duration of the time that they are on the floor. Too bad D’antoni made a nasty comment about him last year or else he would be a great improvement to the second unit in NY.

  • aidee333

    ai is one of the beat ever and at his sz he is the best ever heat need’s him

  • deron williams’ sideburns

    being from toronto and not necessarily being a raps fan, what do they have to lose in bringing in AI?

    it’ll give the city a star caliber player and someone to rally behind. iverson accepts the responsibility that no one that has played for TO has ever managed to grasp. he likes the attention while vince, bosh, stoudemire all ran from it.

    toronto can be too passionate at times. thats the only fault of its fans. if iverson wants a second chance, i’d say toronto is a good fit for him. as long as he plays hard he can’t go wrong.

  • Promoman

    In theory there’s room but Iverson’s not going to be on a roster. He’s just too selfish. Thing is, everybody’s given him a pass for so long that it’s not entirely his fault he’s got his head stuck up his ass.

  • Stunnaboy09

    AI has like 3 or 4 teams where hes PERFFECT for, but no team that’s perfect FOR him. He thinks he’s still got 20-7 in his tank but hes more of a 10/3/1 guy. Just don’t want to see him leave this way. Maybe go back to Phily for a farewell tour.

    And for Dime calling AI not selfish, he’s had the ball in his hand for 80% of his career, mofo better dish out 7 assists

  • Brown

    Only way he’d ever come off the bench is if the starting guards were clearly better than him, meaning he’d pretty much have to play behind guys like Wade and CP3, which we know would never happen. AI will never sacrifice starters minutes to anyone he thinks he’s better than, which is a very short list.

    He’d be a better fit than Nate Robinson in Boston playing the same role. He could backup Wade and anchor the bench scoring, but there’s no way he accepts Mario Chalmers starting over him.

    I could really care less if AI never plays another game in the NBA. Serves him right for being such an egotistical prick.

  • T.O.M.

    Allen should sign with the heat try to get that ring pimp. Him ron Brewer raja bell. Kwame should sign with heat.

  • SJ

    Pacers could use him as their PG. He’s announced he is committed to playing for any team that will want him. Call me silly, but I believe he can still have a strong, positive impact in the league.

  • Stillballin

    Ai just sign with the heat.. Accept any role the team need you to be.. You can still win 3 rings..Good luck ai..

  • Me

    ai will give sloan a stroke in utah.

    might as well go to miami. no way he can mess that up.

    plus he’ll get some decent minutes once wade gets hurt again.

  • control

    Fuck this guy. He IS the most unselfish player to play, yeah he’s got 6 apg, but I bet you 90% of those passes were given to the guy with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.

    This guy COULD have been one of the best point guards in history, but he decided he wanted to be a shooting guard instead. So, he shot. And shot…and shot. Doesn’t matter if he was double or triple teamed by longer defenders, he shot. Doesn’t matter what the situation was, he shot. The only pass he would make is one that would lead directly to an assist.

    I’ve said it before: if AI had 1/10th the desire to make teammates great that Steve Nash has…he would have been the best point guard in history. The guy has remarkable passing, playmaking, and court vision, but instead he only uses what is probably the weakest part of his game: shooting. Fuck him.

  • DK

    You cant enjoy the NBA today without paying homage to Iverson. Singlehandedly made the league what it is today, for better or worse depending on your perspective. Braids, tattoos, SLEEVES. Every player regardless of position from pgs to damn Roy Hibbert wears sleeves bc of Iverson. The “f u” swag, the grit… All from him. He changed the entire culture of the NBA, his way. He saved the league after Jordan. Pay homage. You damn right nobody can tell him nothing, he’s all of 5’10 probably a buck 50 soaking wet and he’s gotten buckets on everybody thrown at him. He’s the man why should he change now? He’s not. He can’t. If u sign Iverson, start him. Simple as that. Some players can’t come off the bench. That’s who he is. Damn right he’s arrogant, it takes a certain bravado to accomplish the things he has. He doesn’t wanna play now to go out gracefully, he may say that but that man still thinks he can kill. Respect his skill. Respect what he’s done. Respect what he can do. Thanks for everything AI!!

  • V

    I love A.I. but i think its seriously over for him. Last year very few teams were checking for him during his free agency and things wern’t even that bad. This year after the failures with Memphis and Philly and Stephen A. Smith trying to expose him with the gambling and drinking, its just made things 100 times worse. If teams were barely checking for him last summer, then this year NO ONE will. I think he still has talent, i mean that Denver season was just 2 years ago, he’s still capable of those numbers but hes gotta let his ego out the door. If he doesnt, hes never gonna play again and hes just gonna fade away. Ughh I wish things coulda worked out in Philly the FIRST time he was with them.

  • DK

    Hes made a tremendous impact on the league, the fact he was voted an All Star starter this year after all that bull that was going on with him and every year before this means something!

  • aidee333

    ai is not selfish he is a real good passer ppl just love 2 hate on ai i dont know why but sign with the heat and win some rings that might shut some ppl up but not all the haters ai is my fav player ever and he derseves a chance with the heat……………..

  • aidee333

    ai is not selfish he is a real good passer ppl just love 2 hate on ai i dont know why but sign with the heat and win some rings that might shut some ppl up but not all the haters ai is my fav player ever and he derseves a chance with the heat…………….. thanks ai for all the goods times

  • Doog

    It strike me that the focus on a player’s level of individual talent in the abstract is misguided when thinking about constructing a team. The key is the extent to which the individual player’s talents can be utilized to create the most effective five-person squad at any given moment of the game as compared to other players who could fill that time for the contract price of the player being evaluated.

    While I’m a fan of Iverson, the only time he’s had significant team success is when the team was constructed entirely around his talents (i.e., a big, defensive point, a few good outside shooters, and a bunch of hustling, rebounding bigs). And this is probably not an effective strategy as: (1) in his prime, in a pretty terrible conference, they still had no chance of winning a title, and (2) Iverson’s talents have diminished across the board. As Burton notes, Iverson is two years away from putting up good numbers. And small guys who rely on their speed and can’t shoot tend to have precipitous drop-offs as they age.

  • high release

    Great article.

    I don’t see him going anywhere. Who would take him? Except… Miami. Riley may be desperate or cocky enough for that. But I really doubt Iverson could resist seeing himself as part of a big four.

    Good for Anthony Carter.

  • iLL Mago

    Yes, and he’ll be “HEAT”ing it up in the league very soon.

    P.S. Bargnani will be just fine as our power forward thank you very much, Raps in the playoffs!

  • DareDevil

    I dont care wat anyone say….I kno AI can help any team meaning(HEATS) cause i kno thats the last place he would end up before he retire. I still beleive in him n kno he got wat it takes jus luk back on his nba career n tell me this dude is not a boss he change his attitude n everyone can see his givin up the ball like in Philly wen he gave AI9 the last shot wen he had the betta luk. so its jus his problem at hum that kept him back n everyone knows that so be off an FAVOURITE PLAYER……….plz

  • Legend 33

    People got to stop with the AI to the Heat thing, Riley is not very fond of his game. Also, what is the key phrases that the big three reiterate over and over again? Play the right way, defend and sacrifice. Since when has AI done any of those things.

    If AI was on the Heat there will be a faction on the team, on one side would be the big 3 of Bosh, Wade and James and the other would be the big 3 in AI’s head of Me, Myself and Iverson. LOL Besides Wade already has the number 3 jersey dont see him giving that up.

  • http://www.nba.com smoove chips

    just like pick up.
    I like the guy, respect what he USED to do, but right now,to win this game seeing what I’ve been seeing lately…imma pass.
    but then again,this league has some GMs on crack..maybe an 3 yr,3 mill contract from minnesota. I hear kahn’s doing some great things down there.

  • Dru

    Sign A.I. and Shaq to Miami, done deal for 3+ rings!

  • zo

    I still struggle to understand why people hate on this man..he is what he is…a pure scorer with the heart of a lion. Arguably the greatest scorer pound for pound the NBA has ever seen, the Answer played each game the only way he knew how…like it was his last. Consistantly injured, AI played through the pain night after night, taking on the incredibly difficult task of playing against every teams best defensive stopper…and still getting buckets. He only knows one way to play..his way. Allen was a warrior, and a game changer. He brought a toughness the league needed desperately. He made kids who were maybe not the tallest or the most talented, believe they could make it like AI did. His moves were mimicked across the nation by basketball players of all sizes, genders, colors, and ages. He could single handedly fill an arena with fans watching his every daring move into the paint..taking crushing hits from players that dwarfed him, and skillfully and incredibly finishing in ways that can’t be practiced or taught..pure instintive baskets that made fans shake their heads in awe. His crossover was unguardable, his step back untouchable. Every night he was the underdog. True basketball fans love him because of what he represents. The little guy sticking it to everyone and anyone who continually told him what he couldn’t do. Was he selfish? Yes.. Did he shoot a lot? Of course. It’s because of this ego, this superior confidence, this “I will never be second best to any man in this game” mentality that made him the player he was. Jordan could never play from the bench..and neither can AI. It’s a simply not in his DNA. How about we give this man the respect he deserves…as one of the greatest to ever play this wonderful game.

  • LakerLand

    @”Tha Boddy” Wall for one and Wall for all!

    “Teams need to respect AI he is still better than over 80% of the current NBA players…Go to a playoff team compete and get that ring AI it’s gonna happen”

    - You must be crazy.

  • ab_40

    Let me put it this way… NO. He’s to slow to be productive and too bad a shooter and passer to be a role player. It’s all or nothing with players like him.

  • Joe Daddy

    I have much respect for AI. Still think he’s one of the best to play the game. He did it night in night out against players bigger and stronger than him. Gotta respect that. Miami should just sign him just to fill a roster spot and so he can get his championship, then he can be content.

  • vic

    First off people saying this man too old,too slow; (AI) in a league where steve nash, jason kidd,derek fisher, andre miller start in this league and produce night in and night out. 2nd this man play with bosh, lebron, and wade on like 5 all star teams ALREADY as the starting point guard. Yall worried about if this man gonna be selfish! RU serious. This man like 33 34 u think he don’t know its almost over. This man is not stupid. He know what it is. Not only can he start but with then 3 (heat) he can have at least 9 assists but with the double teams those 4 will command mike miller might be a 25 ppg scorer in the game. Ego aside he know what it is. They sign AI mark my words 3 straight rings and I’m a LA lakers fan!!!

  • Joe’s Momma

    I love this guys heart and his grit. True toughness. Has this confidence about him rivaled only by a few in the league, and had the game to back it up.

    Played hurt almost 90% of his games, and didn’t hear a word about it from him.

    But with that said, he is a 2 guard trapped in a 6 foot frame. He never developed pg skills. He doesn’t play any defense, he got murdered by Ty Lawson last year, but Lawson is fast as heck though. But steals don’t mean good defense.

    Just like assist don’t mean pg skills. The guy is a good passer, and put him on a team where he accepts a limited role, he can still ball.

    But the question is, can he put his ego in check? When Malone, Payton, C-Webb, Shaq, and other former stars went to become a role players for a contending team, they still were starters.

  • Bobby Sherwood

    This was one of the better pieces I’ve ever seen written about my favorite player, Ive. I read this hours after I said pretty much the exact same thing to a friend of mine when talking about the possibility of him playing for the Heat.

    Ive’s problem is his stubborness and still thinking he is the Man. If he signed with the Heat, one of the biggest problems would be that he is already the second best clutch player on that team by far behind Wade and that’s only because of age. Ive’s clutch play is one of the best in the history of ball and he knows that so while LeBron and Bosh would be willing to defer to Wade to take the last shot, I don’t know if Allen would, it’s pride and knowing he’s done this before. Would he give it up to a guy who has a better look?

    Ive is a guy who truly wants to win a championship, not one of these guys who says it because you have to. His problem is that he wants to do it his way instead of adapting like KG, Pierce and Allen did in Boston. Making the “sacrifices” necessary to win.

    I love Ive until the end and would love nothing more than to see him win a title, I just really hope he makes the changes necessary to play on a contender and be more of a role player so he can reach his ultimate goal.

  • DVS

    A.I. is finished. game over.
    He had multiple chances to get his game together and he couldn’t get over himself.
    He doesn’t have what it takes to be a effective role player because he still thinks he’s the man. What a waste of talent.
    There’re plenty of teams that could have used him off the bench, but he couldn’t handle it.
    Can’t say I’m sad, but it’s disappointing.

  • tt

    he should call up Larry Brown and head to Charlotte, they just lost Felton to the Knicks. That would be his best opportunity, he could also use Jordan’s influence. That could help his ‘tude’ alot.

  • C.J.

    Jordan doesn’t deal with incompetence. Iverson is the last person he’s going to say yes to.

    The fallout with Memphis and Detroit makes it extremely unlikely to trust what he says.

    He got waived by Memphis, then waited for teams to come calling, then announced his retirement to get league-wide recognition and hiding the fact that no one wanted him anymore.

    Sure, the Sixers brought him in, but it was to sell tickets. Then commentators disrespected Iguodala by calling him A.I.#2.

    And really man, don’t count Denver as a team he took to the Playoffs. They wanted someone to compliment Anthony, not steal the spotlight and slow his development. It’s no wonder why the team fared much better with Chauncey Billups.

    Iverson needs to just shut up or go to Europe. He’s ruined his reputation here, but internationally he’s still known for his golden days.

  • http://www.buywithtye.com Tye

    AI has been one of the leagues most prolific scorers and warriors on the court. A 6th man role on a contending team, getting 18-25 minutes/game would be optimum. It would be good for all of us to see. Last year is not the way we true fans want to see you close it out. I knew the T Wolves experiment last year would be short lived- not the right fit. He could have waited and got picked up by a contender later in the year. AI, this is your last shot. It’s simple, sacrifice your big ego and maybe get a chance to continue playing or keep the Attitude and continue to be exhiled. You should want to come back and show you still have game and finally end it in a few year on a good note. Your true fans still love you but last years on court actions and the ensuing articles are not what we want to remember.