In sports, it is a rarity to witness the start-to-finish career of a hall of fame player with all the ups and the downs that come along with time. In most cases, the player's career is cut short by injuries or loss of talent, causing them to drop from superstar levels to mediocrity. Rare as ever is it to witness a legend make it from day one to the end of his career with still a little sparkle or flicker of what they once used to be.
When Michael Jordan retired from the Washington Wizards, those of us who had seen from his early days to his peak still saw some shades of his super stardom as he walked off into the sunset.
When Brett Favre retired, and when he retires again, we will surely see some of the magic in his eyes that helped him become one of the greatest to ever suit up.
Such was expected of 14 year veteran Allen Iverson.
When news broke of Allen Iverson announcing his plans to retire, I wasn't the least bit shocked. After all, the New York Knicks passing on A.I. was a sign that we may never see him perform on the biggest stage again.
There were rumors of him playing in Europe, but we all knew that would never be the same. Weeks of disgruntlement in Memphis preceded Iverson's decision to walk away from the game for good.
Though I wasn't surprised by the announcement when I initially heard it, a feeling of emptiness and confusion came over me hours later when it began to set in that this wasn't the way it was supposed to end for one of the best players in league history.
There was no farewell tour. There was no montage of interviews from various superstars, past and present, talking about how Iverson influenced them individually and the game as a whole. There was no Joe DiMaggio teary-eyed speech about how it was time to move on.
There was nothing.
For a player who ranks fifth all time in points scored per game, a ten time All-Star, and a guy who was second only to Michael Jordan in points scored per game in the playoffs, this is how it ends? A call to Stephen A. Smith and a halftime blurb on ESPN by Jalen Rose?
There is no question that Iverson's decision making over the past has been far from perfect. From the day he came into the league, his friction with Larry Brown to his qualms about "practice" and his off-the-court issues with his posse, to his refusal to come off the bench in Memphis, Iverson had made poor choices. But that is who he was.
We knew that from his college days and nothing about him changed in that respect. We hated how ridiculous he may have sounded at times, but loved how big the little man's heart was on the court. He wanted to win and he wanted to win badly. You could see it in his eyes, you could feel it with every slam his body took to the hardwood, and you could hear it in his voice when he would vent about the team's failures.
This is who Allen Iverson was. His passion was his gift and in the end, it was his curse.
There is no question in my mind that there is a place somewhere in the league for Iverson. But can you blame any General Managers who are weary of signing him after his departures in Detroit and Memphis? I can't.
What saddens me the most about Iverson retiring, prematurely in my mind, is that he still has at least two or three years left where he can contribute to a championship contending team. The only caveat being that he cannot dominate the ball and run the show like he used to.
I am 100 percent positive that Iverson could join a team, come off the bench, and immediately make them a threat. No question.
However, Iverson doesn't see it that way. Perhaps if he did, he would one day retire similar to David Robinson and the many other legends who walked away with slightly diminished skills, but a championship victory.
How different our last memories would be if A.I. could find it in himself to yield some of his ego for the betterment of his own legendary status—a status that is just as important to his fans, though he may not understand that.
Instead, we have an ESPN news ticker informing us that the greatest small guard has decided to retire.
I am not fortunate to have an insider link to Iverson where I could ask him why he chose to go the path he did. If I did, I would ask him what upset him about being a sixth man while potentially being a crucial piece of a championship team.
Manu Ginobili was not a starter for the Spurs when they won their title, but few remember, or care about that. All they commit to memory is his contributions to achieving the ultimate goal. Why could Allen Iverson not do the same?
Perhaps, we will never know.
There are many paths in life that we as individuals choose to take. All we can do is look at our options and make the decision that we deem the best possible for ourselves. It appears that Iverson has made up his mind, and retirement is what is best for him.
Allen Iverson doesn't owe anyone an explanation. That being said, the irony in all of this is the man known as the "Answer" is leaving us with so many unanswered questions.
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