Every so often, I love to see superstar athletes who seem to think they are bigger than the sport get humbled. There is no single athlete that is bigger than their team and league. Even the best of the best, from Jordan to Gretzky paid homage to past players and constantly proclaimed their love of the sport they play.
To begin with, I always admired Allen Iverson's passion for the game. He plays hard, and never plays scared. There wasn't a single game I watched Iverson play where I thought he was going half-ass, or wasn't playing at one hundred percent. However, I wouldn't want him on my team.
To begin with, the guy dribbles sixty times before shooting. Half of his assists come when he gets stuck passing the ball after running 10-15 seconds on the shot clock. Plus his desire to be a prolific scorer, at all costs, hurts the team's chemistry. Besides his one Finals run in 2001, the Sixers were an above-average team at best. He never really had a player to demand the ball.
Nowadays at age 34, there are players 10 years younger who could match his speed, and his scoring prowess, without the bad shot selection. No team will ever win with Iverson shooting 25 times a game and dribbling fifteen seconds off before deciding what to do.
Look at players like Rasheed Wallace and Michael Finley, who accepted significantly lesser roles in order to win a ring. Iverson is not that type of player. Even in Detroit, where he tried to conform and fit in, he still had the same problems.
By no means am I blaming Iverson for the Detroit debacle. That was a bad fit from the beginning, and the Pistons bought him in knowing the type of player he was. But at 34, he has to realize that there are new stars in the league, and he is no longer the franchise.
His best years was when he had Larry Brown, who not only is an excellent teacher, but wouldn't back down to any star. You play his way or you don't play. That made Iverson step up not only as a player, but as a man. Once Larry Brown left, and a few inexperienced coaches, particularly Randy Ayers, and even Mo Cheeks, eventually caused Iverson to stray off and become a distraction.
When he was traded to Denver, and played for a strong and established coach in George Karl, he had probably his best season as a pro, STATISTICALLY. However, the team wasn't growing around him. Players were out for themselves. I remember a game in particular, where A.I. was absolutely on fire. He finished the game with 51 points that night.
Around the third quarter when he couldn't miss, I watched Carmelo Anthony have the mentality of going "shot for shot" with him. When a guy is THAT hot, you've got to "give him the damn ball", as Keyshawn Johnson would say. That's the kind of selfishness that A.I. brings to the table on the offensive end.
Memphis was another case where he was pretty much used. With the young players they have, all they need is an aging former superstar trying to squeeze extra minutes onto his fifteen minutes of fame. While I certainly would choose the likes of Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, and Marc Gasol over Iverson, he could've definitely started over Mike Conley, and certainly deserved to play more than 18 minutes.
Again, Memphis knew exactly who they were getting, and knew there is no excuse for playing a 10 time all star with a 27 PPG career scoring average 18 minutes. Especially on a team that won 24 games last season. None. However, AI shouldn't have been bitching about it one game into his season.
After that, not too many takers. The Knicks, who employ Mike Antoni ( that's not a typo, there's no D), couldh've used Iverson's offense and defensive EFFORT.
Then, the Knicks, who have more excuses than a man on the way to jail stated signing him would mess up team chemistry. Please. Chemistry...with players like Larry Hughes and Al Harrington. On a team who only have two players signed after this season. (Gallinari and Chandler). Delusional Knick fans think LeBron is coming. I have a better chance of Oprah buying me a car.
When he mentioned retirement, then people started to realize that the game would be losing one of the faces of the league for years. Larry Brown stepped up, and when Philly thought about it, what could they lose. They lost Lou Williams to a broken jaw, and Philly has underachieved the last couple of years, partly due to lack of veteran leadership.
Plus, it wouldn't cost much. Not to mention that Iverson played his heart out for them and the fans love him. Rightfully so.
Watching Iverson's press conference with him crying really made me see the level of love and passion he has for the game of basketball. All he wanted to do was play. Think that last year, he made around $20 million. He signed with the Sixers for $650,000, approximately. That shows how much he loves the game. And being unwanted made him realize what a privilege it is to play a game that you love for money.
I think the Sixers MIGHT, and I repeat might make the playoffs. I believe in karma, and after snaking his way away from the Clippers, Elton Brand, thus far has been a colossal bust. Iguodala is good, but he's not an all-star caliber type player. I don't know why either, since he definitely has the talent. Then again, in this league, talent isn't enough.
These experiences, I think will change A.I. as a player. He almost had to give up the game he loved due to his reputation and the way he was perceived as a teammate. He's going on the court with a chip on his shoulders, with something to prove. It's do or die time. If he messes up now, he'll probably be done. Unless he accepts a demotion to a role player.
Either way, his number will be the next to be retired in the Wachovia Center. He epitomizes the phrase "go hard or go home." Good luck AI. We're rooting for you. At least until the Knicks get good again.