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Dear Allen Iverson, Stay True to Yourself

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Dear Allen Iverson, Stay True to Yourself
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Dear Allen Iverson, 

It appears your career is at the crossroads. I for one hope you still have something left to offer a team. I know you have something left to offer a team. I don't even care if it's not on a championship contender.

I just want to see you playing at a high level again. Going out on your terms. Critics have savaged you the last two years. Blamed you for the disaster in Detroit. Then pointed to the Memphis mishap as validation for all those years the detractors said you could never be a winner.

I knew better though. I believed in you from the start. Well, almost the start. I admit it took me some time to warm to you. I mean, who were you to cross my idol over in your rookie year?

But that was part of the intrigue, your confidence. Bordering on arrogance. They called you selfish, arrogant, the poster boy of the new "Hip Hop NBA." Everything that was wrong with the new era of players. I tended to agree.

But then as time went on I—and the rest of the world—began to understand what made you tick. 

Playing through injuries, averaging 30-plus ppg, leading your team through gut-wrenching determination. I saw you were just being yourself. You didn't bend for anyone. And come hell or high water you were not going to let anyone tell you what to do or how to do it.

And you know what? Right or wrong, I admired that. That's when I became a true fan. I enjoyed your "practice" rant too. Agreed with your every word. No sugar coating or cliche responses. Just you. 

You showed a young kid from the opposite side of the globe that it was OK to be yourself. That conforming to achieve success wasn't necessary. The tattoos, cornrows, baggy shorts that looked like they were consuming you. It was all part of your make-up. That was who you were. You never asked for people to like you. Just to understand you. 

I watched you play on television countless times. Amazed that a man barely barely taller than me could dominate the behemoths of the league so easily.  The speed, the explosiveness, scoring at will. The crossover and subsequent step over Tyronne Lue still gets repeated ad nauseum.

What I really loved about you was what we saw was what we got. When I went to the US to watch my first games of live NBA basketball, I went out of my way to see you play. You were playing for Denver not long after the trade.

I marveled at how small you really were. I think I focused more on you than the actual game. Even though you were playing my team, the Chicago Bulls, I hoped you'd do well. And you did.

You inspired me to play ball like every game was my last. Your tattooed torso screamed individuality. A sign of a man determined to do things his own way.  You being comfortable in your own skin enabled me to do the same. 

So when people say you haven't "won", know that you have. There are millions of people from around the globe who look up to you. One who you have inspired. On and off the court.  For me the Reebok commercial where you said "I am what I am" summed it up for me. Stay true to yourself.

I hope you come back to the game you love and have given everything you have. I know you can still play the game of basketball. My faith in you never wavered. But as a fan I also hope that you leave the game on your own terms. The same way you've played it your whole career.

It's the reason why I've supported you through thick and thin and why fans all around the world connected to you because you were real. You could've been any one of us. You ushered in and represented a whole generation of ballers. And for that I will forever be grateful.

Signing off,

Nick Metallinos

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