By: Chuck Araneta
When did it all change for Allen Iverson?
When did this spitfire of courage and bravery who took the league by storm in ’96 change in the hearts and minds of basketball viewers everywhere? It seems like only yesterday that A.I. was teamed up with Jerry Stackhouse to form a potentially ill backcourt in Philadelphia, tearing up the league and breaking scoring records. Even daring to take on King MJ at the height of his powers.
Iverson was a force of nature wrapped inside a frail, 5’11 body. On the court, he had the heart of a proud and fierce warrior dripping in sweat and covered in tattoos. Everytime he made a clutch basket, he let out a primal scream, roaring at those who would dare take him on. Pity poor Tyronn Lue. Even to this day, he can still remember AI crossing him over, pulling up for a jumper and wetting a three (while walking all over his business).
Speaking of Lue and AI, that 2001 season has to be submitted in as one of the bravest efforts by one player in history. All season long, Iverson dragged his team to wherever he could afford to take them. My lasting memory of that whole playoff run was when the Bucks were playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Iverson was getting thrown around like a rag doll. At one point he hid his mouth inside his jersey, looking like he was talking to himself. Turns out he was hiding all the blood spewing forth from his mouth because of the bating he was taking.
So when did it all change for Allen Iverson?
I suspect that it was not one instant that changed how we looked at AI. Rather, it was a gradual progression from utmost relevance to irrelevance. After the 2001 season, he battled valiantly in Sixers teams, unable to recapture the glory of that one sweet moment. Eventually A.I. wore out his welcome and transferred to Denver, somewhat deferring to Rocky Mountain hotshot Carmelo Anthony. It seemed like a match made in urban heaven, as the two were loud, proud and wore their emotions on their arm sleeves. Those two were scoring machines, but unfortunately could be exploited on the other side. So while Iverson performed admirably for the Nuggets, he was again shipped out to Denver where he ended the 2008 season with a phantom back injury (or so we’re told).
Let’s pause real quickly and breakdown Iverson’s road at this point. For 12 years he was a bright shining star in the league, influencing a brand new generation with his killer crossover and unguardable forays to the basket. He was the answer to everyone who called the NBA “a thug league.” He had the admiration of millions, and the grudging respect of some.
So did everything change when Allen Iverson signed with the Memphis Grizzlies to start the 2009-2010 NBA season? Did you ever dream that you’d see the day when a proud man like Iverson would lower himself to one of the drecks of the league for a mere paycheck because no one was calling? Did everything change for A.I. when he decided he didn’t want to play off the bench in Memphis, thereby forcing the Grizz to release him?
Did you, like me, for a brief moment become excited when you heard Iverson was signed by the Philadephia 76ers for one more grand reunion? Many thought that this would be the perfect swansong for the proud warrior, ending his career where it began.
Yet the new season is 2 weeks from beginning, yet A.I. is still unemployed.
Allen Iverson might play in the Turkish Basketball League. Say that again and again, and it will start to dawn on you how completely absurd it sounds. He needs the money for himself and his family but it’s still not the ending we expected.
We expected Allen Iverson to go down fighting, yet he’s stumbling and bumbling into the night.
We wished for him to crossover fools for one more season, yet the only crossover he’ll perform will be to a different continent.
We prayed that Allen Iverson would eventually grow up and mature, eventually deferring to some of the young studs of the league. But no one refuses to inquire about the services of a multiple-time All Star, scoring leader and MVP.
When did it all change for Allen Iverson?
Why is it that instead of finally getting The Answer, all we have are a bunch of unanswered questions?