Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Maybe this is a sign from God to do something else, anything else. Maybe I’m just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet it still doesn’t make any sense.
I drove past schools. I walked by business complexes. I glanced at parks. I even talked to friends, and yet it feels like it’s impossible to find outdoor basketball courts around my apartment. I’m living just outside of Baltimore right now, and trying to find a court with a rim, a playable surface and a net is hard labor. It’s at the point where I’m shocked when I see a place to hoop. I’m more likely to find one with the entire rim gone and kids playing hopscotch where the free throw line should be, or a court with all the lines and just a pole with no backboard than I am of catching a game on a regulation basket.
It’s unreal. Trying to find somewhere I can actually shoot has been harder than trying to hunt down Marlo Stanfield‘s stash of dead bodies. Over the past few weeks, it went from annoying to frustrating, and yeah, there are places to play. But I’m not always trying to drive around for a half an hour to find one (Upon moving to the area, I’ve heard a few different reasons for this. Most of them stem from some type of violence or racial issue).
But when I was younger, having a rim didn’t matter so much. It sounds crazy, but I used to often dribble in place and never shoot. I took over racquetball courts, and dribbled off the wall. I dribbled in school. I dribbled wherever I could, and during those few times when I didn’t have access to a ball? I just pretended (I can’t be the only one who did this, right? Right?!). I was like a modern-day version of Tom Sheppard.
Allen Iverson started all that for me. His handle was the influence. Whereas I later identified with Jason Williams, the Answer came first. Sometimes I feel like the younger generation doesn’t truly realize what AI’s crossover did to the game. For better or worse, he was a chain-breaker, a rule-bender. That impact is still being felt today all across YouTube. To give you an idea of how out of the ordinary the move was, the dude initially didn’t even have it himself. He needed a Georgetown walk-on with a funky game to teach it to him.
Iverson was a cultural icon, one of the baddest little guys to ever play. His career scoring average (26.7 points a game) is topped by only five people: MJ, Wilt, LeBron, Elgin and West. He averaged 6.2 assists a night, and won a MVP as well as Rookie of the Year. He perennially dragged offensively-challenged Philly teams into the playoffs, and even made a Finals run. He was universally loved by everyone under 35 who had a working pulse, and partly because of that, started in nine All-Star Games.
But lately, Iverson is getting attacked in the blogosphere. Hard. The return of some of his most popular sneakers has him back in the limelight. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the best players in the world now, and their on-court presence is about as far away as possible from some of what Iverson represents.
The recent comments the Philly legend made about a potential career in China – “China is still one of my choices, but the team that wants me to join has got to show me that they really mean it, like ‘hey we really need you’.” – haven’t exactly helped his stance amongst the current generation, either.
So now the same style we once idolized is getting trashed. I get it. Generations move on, and with hindsight, it’s easy to pick apart the “practice” rant and the isolation basketball, the turnovers, the fact that he never really won anything, and perhaps most of all, how his pride eventually took him from Denver to Memphis to Philly again to Turkey to God knows where else to crying at his own charity event. But still, hearing people discredit Iverson’s accomplishments hurts. It truly does. It’s like hearing someone ghostwrote for Esco. I don’t want to believe it, and hope I won’t ever have to believe it.