Jason Boone is a friend of the Dime family, but more relevant to this space, a center/power forward for BG Göttingen of the German pro basketball league. Last week, Jason’s team played Besiktas Cola Turka — better known as Allen Iverson’s squad — in the first of two schedule EuroCup games. Jason checked in from overseas to chronicle one of the biggest games of his career against one of the biggest names in the sport:
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“Picture being broke without no pot to piss in / Then suddenly your idols is your competition / Used to be God to me / Slowly losing my religion.” — J.Cole, “See World”
As I hit the pause button on my iPod, that was the last line I remember hearing. I’ve been playing his new mixtape (Friday Night Lights) nonstop since it became available and can empathize with what he’s rapping about. J.Cole, like Drake, is a up-and-coming musician who talks about competing against guys he once looked up to.
Coming off of a big win in our first EuroCup game against Tony Parker‘s French team, ASVEL, we were in the driver’s seat hosting this Turkish team from Istanbul. But more recently, coming off of a tough loss in our domestic German league against our local rival, the Braunschweig New Yorker Phantoms, we had a bitter taste in our mouths and a anxious feeling in our stomachs. Sounds like the recipe of a team in need of a win.
While walking out onto the court to begin my warm-up, it was a very different feel. Maybe because it was our first “home” EuroCup game (though on a neutral site). Maybe because I had just played two of my best games and felt added pressure to keep it up. Or it could have been the fact that any second from now, Allen Iverson would be 70 feet away from me warming up on the other end of the court.
At this point (more than an hour before tip-off) there were no fans allowed in the arena, just a few people from the German press and the Turkish TV crews. It’s typical for me to start my pregame warm-up with some jump rope near half-court and begin to size up my opponent. I like to see how they warm-up, how they communicate with each other and how serious they take getting ready for the game. And on this day, I was going to do exactly that — I was just simply trying to time it with the entrance of No. 4.
Sixty-six minutes before tip-off, it happened: Iverson walked out onto the court. Everyone on my team knew it, whether they were paying attention or not, because all of a sudden you heard this collective “whoa” and the sound of cameras flashing everywhere. I almost felt like I was on the red carpet at an award show, and they weren’t even there to see me. Iverson’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect, either, because as soon as we got over the initial shock of being on the same court as him and the press people had all finished their snapshots, the clock struck 60 minutes and the arena doors opened to the public. Turkish and German fans alike immediately went to the Besiktas side of the court and continued to take pictures, Flip videos and iPhone recordings of Iverson trotting through a three-man-weave.
At this point, no matter how focused you were trying to be, it was obvious we were playing against a team — and a player — that EVERYONE had come out to see. The last time I was even remotely close to being in this situation was last season, when our Russian opponent, Krasnodar, signed Gerald Green and I kept peeking down to their side to see if he was exhibiting contest-worthy dunks during layup lines. And just as Green never dunked that day, A.I. never did much of anything I expecting during warm-ups. I’m not exactly sure what I expected out of the 35-year-old, but whatever it was, I didn’t get it. It wouldn’t be normal for him to get out there and cross people up during warm-ups, would it? How about a trademark step-back fadeaway? Probably not, right? But it just seemed that whether his team was doing layups or calisthenics or just shooting around, Iverson was never really moving at full speed. Maybe that’s how former NBA guys do it, but I couldn’t help but think he was a bit distracted by the amount of attention he was getting. That said, this is the same guy who has played in the Staples Center during the NBA Finals and at The Palace at Auburn Hills in the NBA playoffs — this very well could have been the equivalent of a high school JV game for him. But not to us. I couldn’t read his mind and didn’t get a chance to ask him, but I’m sticking with the theory that A.I. was in awe of how intense the Göttingen fans were and the creativity of the posters they were holding up. My personal favorite was the section of fans with the k1x signs that read: “Yo A.I. This Sure As Hell Ain’t PRACTICE.”