During the mid-1990s and early 2000s, there was a 6'0" force that dominated the game as most 7'0" tall players can only dream of. With career averages of 26.7 points, 6.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game, this little man with a big fight took the league by storm and absolutely no one had an answer for "The Answer."
An MVP award, four scoring titles, three years in which he led the league in steals and two All-Star Game MVPs later, Allen Iverson became a living legend.
Unfortunately, the past few years haven't been as kind to the former face of Philadelphia. Iverson's NBA career came to an unfortunate close during the 2010 regular season when he walked away due to personal reasons.
Since then, Iverson has been unsuccessful in his attempts to return to the game he loves. In turn, he has found himself all over the world looking to show he still has star qualities. The question is, does he?
Avid Allen Iverson fans will fight for A.I.'s NBA return until the day they die. Those against him will claim that he was washed up quite some time ago and no longer holds relevance in NBA-related conversations.
The unbiased mind may be inclined to lean to the latter. Just take a moment to step back and offer one last ounce of consideration, as the strongest heart in basketball may not be done just yet.
Two False Chances at a Lasting Impression
Earlier this week, an Israeli Sport site had reported that Allen Iverson would make an unconventional NBA return. Although he wouldn't be playing for the league, he was scheduled to join Israeli club Maccabi Haifa as they played the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Unfortunately, that report has been proven false.
According to Neil Rubin of the JTA, these reports were fabricated by the media. This comes directly from the company involved in the ownership of Maccabi Haifa. In fact, Iverson is not only going to miss those two games, but he may not be joining the team at all.
“The local Israeli press completely made this up,” said Andrew Wilson, director of marketing for Triangle Financial Services, which is chaired by Maccabi Haifa owner Jeffrey Rosen. “We’ve had no contact with Allen Iverson so it’s a fabricated rumor.”
A speed bump in Allen Iverson's road to an NBA return. Not a signal of the end.
It All Rests on 'Sheed
In the past, a player's attempt to come out of retirement and return to the NBA was frowned upon if your name wasn't Michael Jordan. More times than not, even the big names failed in their attempt to find a roster slot.
Fortunately for Allen Iverson and any other retired veteran looking to make a return to the league, Rasheed Wallace has broken the mold.
Per a report via Ian Begley of ESPN New York, the New York Knicks have signed Wallace to a non-guaranteed contract. The deal will give Wallace the chance to earn the veteran's minimum at $1.7 million and compete for a roster spot during training camp.
If Wallace is able to secure a slot in the rotation, the prospect of Allen Iverson returning no longer seems outrageous. After all, the main argument against Iverson's return is that few players have proven capable of a restoration of NBA-caliber ability.
Recent memory is often more powerful than history, however, which is why Iverson's return hinges on the production of another former star.
How It Could Work
Just like teams are in need of additional big men, extra ball handlers are always on the agenda. From contenders with a weakness at the point to the young teams in need of a veteran to guide their youngsters, an opportunity will present itself.
The question is, will A.I. be the name they think of? Believe it or not, they may.
Allen Iverson remains one of the most popular names in the basketball world. His star power is in tact and a risky franchise may look to boost end of the season ticket sales once the respective team's record is of little relevance.
A team such as the Charlotte Bobcats would be a prime example, as Kemba Walker searches for a mentor and Michael Jordan seeks a seat-filler. Any team at all that finds the injury bug is also in line to at least consider A.I.'s services.
If 'Sheed can do it, Iverson can too.
Accepting a Smaller Role
Would we all love to see Allen Iverson return to the NBA and put up 30 points per night as if nothing had changed? Of course. The fact of the matter is, there are very few teams, if any at all, that would be requesting such an output from the 37-year-old.
More likely than not, Iverson would be signed to put forth inconsistent minutes as a role player.
If A.I. is willing to accept this role, then his play will speak for itself and greater opportunities will come if earned. If he is not, a return to the NBA remains unlikely and the dream of Iverson performing on the grandest stage of them all will remain just that: a dream.
Let's all hope that Allen Iverson can swallow his pride and accept the process of earning significant minutes.
Hurdles to Overcome
With all of this being noted, there is still a grand possibility that Iverson never sees an NBA court again. While one can't help but pull for him on his road to redemption, the possibility must be acknowledged and the detractions weighed.
At 37 years old, Iverson is already tasked with overcoming questions about his age. Despite what Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and company would suggest, teams are far less inclined to offer money up to a player older than 35 than they are an asset in their late 20s.
When one considers how physically defenses played Iverson when he was active, the toll on his body offers additional concern.
Furthermore, Iverson has been out of the league for two years. Even if Rasheed Wallace does make the cut and contributes at a high level, there is no guarantee that it will impact Iverson's stock. His own physical fitness and NBA readiness will be of far more severe importance.
If Wallace fails to make the team, however, it is likely that that there will be an adverse effect on Iverson's future.
Will He Make It Back?
Allen Iverson has been one of the most mercurial athletes since before he even entered the league in 1996. From his unparalleled production to his off-the-court antics, there always seemed to be something that kept him on the tip of our tongues.
As he aims to return for what would be his 15th NBA season, there is a great chance that the league's patience has run out. Albeit of risk, that does not impede me from believing in his NBA future.
Injuries will strike and seasons will not go as planned for some teams who we view as potential postseason contenders. For those teams, there is the possibility of a mid-to-late season addition.
In all likelihood, the said player would be one who can bring a new energy or excitement to their arena and rotation.
Allen Iverson can be that player. As long as he is willing to work his way up from the bottom of the NBA's barrel again, we may be in store for one last run from A.I. One last attempt at winning that ever-elusive ring.
Will Allen Iverson ever play in the NBA again? Only your pride has "The Answer," Mr. Iverson.