Allen Iverson: Fallen Hero?

Tom SmithCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2010

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 20: Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers tries to drive into the lane against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on February 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Who knows what goes through the heads of kids today with regard to athletes as heroes. Do they even bother looking up to athletes?

Allen Iverson doesn't hold any sway over the kids of today, though. He made his fan base in the pre-TMZ era (Oh, do I miss those days!). There are a lot of young adults out there who grew up idolizing Allen Iverson.

There was a lot to like.

Despite standing barely six feet tall, and weighing in at around 165 pounds soaking wet, the man many called "The Answer" emerged from the depths of a high school scandal that landed him in jail to become one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the NBA and even reaching the NBA Finals once.

His fearless forays into the forest of big men waiting for him in the lane were nothing short of a testament to heart. Iverson had a big heart—his competitive fire during games was almost unparalleled.

Iverson's crossover dribble and his ability to break the ankles of his defenders was a nightly demonstration of incredible quickness.

Allen Iverson never had much of a jump shot, but his quickness and fearlessness were usually able to compensate.

Of course his biggest impact on the NBA was probably off the court. When he was released by the Memphis Grizzles earlier this season and no one would pick him up, the guys at NBATV were debating his legacy one night.

Jalen Rose actually said that Iverson's biggest and most long-lasting legacy would be his popularization of cornrows, tattoos, and defiant qualities—that he wouldn't buckle to the Man.

Huh? That's his legacy? Is that even something to be proud of? Well, that was Jalen's opinion, and everyone is entitled to one.

Like any ball player whose success depends entirely on physical attributes like quickness or leaping ability, Iverson's skills took a serious tumble soon after hitting 30. Always a quantity shooter, Iverson could never get the hang of the team basketball that someone without "star" abilities needs to adopt.

When Philadelphia finally tired of trying to build a team around Iverson, he was shipped out to Denver. The Iverson/Anthony combination proved to be a potent scoring duo, but Anthony's overall game suffered. Word started coming out shortly after Iverson's trade to Detroit about how much of a negative influence he had had on Carmelo.

We heard about how Carmelo had been staying out late partying with AI. About how Carmelo wasn't taking practice seriously, not taking fitness seriously. You know, all the things that turn a talented basketball player into a winner.

Iverson's tour of duty in Detroit was a disaster. He simply would not (could not?) fit in with a team-centric approach to basketball. He needed the ball in his hands and he needed to shoot a lot, or it just wasn't happening for him.

His cup of coffee in Memphis? Wow. That didn't turn out well. Iverson was released after just three games. After voicing displeasure about his minutes and role, he left the team for "personal reasons" before Memphis announced that they would be parting ways.

The fact that he ended up in Memphis in the first place should have told us a lot. This guy didn't have it anymore to say the very least.

After retiring for a few hours, Iverson signed with the 76ers in a bald attempt to juice ticket sales in Philly.

For a couple games at least, it appeared that AI was attempting to fit in, but that too wasn't going well. He just didn't have the required skill set, and never did.

By mid-February, Iverson had left the team for "personal reasons" again. It was disclosed later that there was a sick child at home. I don't doubt that, but shouldn't you avoid golf courses, night clubs, and casinos if you're on leave for a sick child?

On March 2, the 76ers announced what we could all see coming: Iverson would not be returning to the team. Days later, Iverson's wife and mother of his five children filed for divorce.

On March 7, Stephen A. Smith wrote a post detailing Iverson's severe problems with gambling and drinking.

How is this a surprise to anyone?

If Iverson's daughter is actually ill, I have the utmost compassion for Allen and his family. That is a genuinely terrible thing to deal with.

Other than that? I have no pity for Iverson. The inglorious end to his career, his impending divorce, he has brought all this on himself.

He is done. His legacy might have been something to be proud of if he had the good sense to hang it up before this year. As it stands now though, I will remember Iverson for all that he wasn't.

Iverson wasn't a leader. He wasn't a team player. He didn't take care of himself, one of your responsibilities as a professional athlete.

His "practice" rant is the first thing that many think of when they hear the name Allen Iverson. Maybe he could have learned to shoot if he took practice more seriously.

Iverson still has fans. It is tough when you latch onto an athlete as a kid to eventually admit their shortcomings, but Iverson has spent the last three years making sure you know about his.


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