Let's face it. When you think about the NBA, one of the few people that pop right into your head is Allen Iverson.
OK... that might have been your way of thinking four or five years ago.
There's no disputing the fact that Iverson has revolutionized the game of basketball, picking up from where Michael Jordan left off in the late '90s (please, let's not count his short-lived and embarrassing tenure with the Washington Wizards).
The cornrows, baggy jeans, tattoos, do-rags, Timberland boots, all of it. You never saw a fellow quite like Iverson walk into the NBA arena before. The dude is an icon.
He went so far with his style, it was probably because of his sense of fashion that NBA commissoner David Stern banned what critics and supporters call "hip-hop culture" related attire and implemented a formal dress code in 2005.
As far as his antics on the court go, A.I. has been a one-man wrecking crew for nearly all 13 years he's been in the association. No one can deny his love for the game, the falls he's taken and the hits he's suffered as a pro.
But one can question his desire to win.
It used to be a common and widely held perception that as Iverson ages, he continues to get better.
Unfortunately, his deficiencies have been displayed on a national stage ever since he got to Detroit, and let's be real—Iverson is just like any normal human being. He'll lose some of his athleticism and quickness to the ball as he gets older, as well as his driving ability. His shooting percentages were already poor.
Young, raw power fowards who just entered the league right after a "one-and-done" stint in college will salivate every time he puts up the ball in the paint, knowing a furious rejection is about to take place.
It only compounds to the argument that right when former NBA Finals' MVP Chauncey Billups returned to Denver, their philosophy on defense had totally reversed. Billups had led Denver to a 54-win season, the Nuggets' best regular season record since the 1987-1988 NBA regular season.
Allen Iverson's contract expires this offseason. Iverson made nearly $22 million this past season. He needs to cope with the reality that he might not even get half of that salary for the 2009-2010 season if he wants to sacrifice his role on a championship-caliber team.
Not many general mangers this offseason will be intrigued by Iverson's ability on the court if he isn't willing to become a sixth man, a sparkplug off the bench; a nine-time All-Star feasting on the opponent's reserves.
Stephon Marbury is a decent example. The ex-Knick took a year and a half hiatus from the game and is now signed onto the defending champion Boston Celtics. As big of a headcase "Starbury" may be, the man presented himself with a viable opportunity to win a championship, something he has never done.
Granted, Iverson has more talent in his thumb than Marbury could ever have, but the point has been made. Most head coaches would prefer Iverson, starter or reserve, with the ball in his hands in the last two or three minutes of the fourth quarter, making him a starter "at heart."
Even though he claimed,
"I'd rather retire before I do this again. I can't be effective playing this way."
If Iverson really wants to win, and have his name mentioned with the greats, he needs to put the team over himself. He needs to realize he can be extremely effective, especially when he is given the opportunity to be playing against second or third stringers.
An introduction to the Hall of Fame could be in his future. But what's the missing link? A championship ring.