Allen Iverson Is Ready To Prove Doubters Wrong

Dwayne MontellCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2010

Chances are Allen Iverson is probably glad that 2009 is over. 2009 was Iverson's worst year in basketball. There are not too many athletes who could stick around in their profession after that kind of year.

But Allen Iverson is one of the very few athletes in the world who can survive that kind of season and have it not affect his game at all. 

It has always been "me against the world" for Allen Iverson, but in 2009 it was him against the world more than ever.

It all started in late 2008 when he was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups. It was all downhill after that.

The guys who were supposed to help Iverson fit in with his new team hated the fact that their best friend, Chauncey Billups, was traded away.

They didn't care who Allen Iverson was. They were not going to compromise with anyone, and this is one of the reason the Detroit Pistons were not the elite team they were supposed to be last season.

Iverson was ready to sacrifice for them, and he did. Iverson took only 14 shots per game, which is a very low number of shots for a guy who is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. It also a very low number of shots for a guy who just averaged 26.4 points per game the season before.

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Iverson's usage rate was as low as ever and was not even in the top 30 in the league anymore. Iverson's usage rate was in the top five every year of his career except for the 2007, 2008, and 2009 seasons.

Even though it was low in Denver he was still averaging 26 points per game and 7 assists per game and was one of the best players in the league. In Detroit, it was not even in the top 30 anymore but he was still averaging 17.5 points per game and 5.0 assists per game.

Iverson was forced to be a different player, and he accepted that because he knew by looking at their roster it was the best chance he ever had to win a ring.

So Iverson brings his stats down so the Pistons can play a team game, but the media and league executives think he is washed up and can't play because his stats are down.

The Pistons did not give Iverson a fair chance, and Michael Curry, the coach of the Pistons at the time, told Iverson he would not have to come off the bench and would be the star of the team and the go-to guy.

But he lied to Iverson, and Rip Hamilton confirmed that Michael Curry did lie to Iverson. Iverson was forced to come off the bench later in the season.

Iverson was frustrated. He was sacrificing his amazing career stats, and the team he was doing this for was not cutting him any slack. He started speaking his mind and complaining about his situation and said he would rather retire than come off the bench again.

Iverson's comments sent the media on a Iverson-bashing rampage. For six months after those comments were made, all you saw were negative articles and negative press about Iverson.

Iverson and the Pistons eventually agreed to part ways, and Iverson was sent home for the playoffs and would not return to the Pistons. A guy who already had a false reputation of being selfish was being destroyed by the media.

The writers and other media members that hated Iverson from Day One because of his hip-hop lifestyle and his style of play were finally getting a chance to bash his basketball ability. The media was destroying one of the greatest careers in NBA history.

Worst of all, this was ruining Iverson's chances of signing with a contender, let alone any team once he became a free agent at the end of the season. It did just that.

Iverson waited all summer, getting interest from only about three teams and eventually signing with the Memphis Grizzlies. Iverson was ready to prove doubters and haters wrong. 

According to Eric Snow of NBA TV, he worked hard in the summer and was ready to come back better than ever. 

He was going to need his usual 18 shots again and wanted to play his usual 35-40 minutes a night because every superstar and future Hall of Famer who can still lead a team deserves those things. He thought Memphis would give him those things and give him a chance to lead the Grizzlies to the playoffs.

But the hard times continued for Iverson.

After not playing at an NBA pace for over five months, Iverson entered the Grizzlies training camp rusty and tight. He hurt his hamstring and was out for the preseason and the first three games of the regular season.

This led to the Grizzlies starting Michael Conley at the point guard position. When Iverson returned, he was not getting the minutes he wanted.

The team that he thought was going to give him what he wanted so he could prove people wrong gave him a lousy 22 minutes per game and nine shots per game.

Iverson showed that he could still play, because in a game against the Warriors he came off the bench for the Grizz and scored 18 points and dished out seven dimes in just 27 minutes in his second game of the season.

But the Grizzlies brought Iverson off the bench and only gave him 20 minutes in the next game against the Lakers.

Iverson was mad, and he wasn't going to stick around with a pathetic franchise full of 22-year-olds and come off the bench for a guy who should still be playing college ball.

Iverson and the Grizzlies had a meeting and parted ways the next day. Iverson left the Grizzlies, and, after two weeks, the Grizzlies and Iverson agreed to a buy out and Iverson was left without an NBA team.

The media loved this and now they could bash Iverson even more. The guy who was supposed to be proving to people that he can still be one of the best players in the league was forced to prove that he is a distraction and a selfish player.

The days went by, and, the week after being waived, Iverson was very close to signing with the New York Knicks.

The Knicks fans were excited and so were the Iverson fans, because he was going to a big city and was going to play for Mike D'Antoni and his open offense.

He was supposed to lead them to the playoffs and prove doubters wrong. The deal was supposed to be signed and everything was set. Iverson was going to become a New York Knick.

But the pain continued for Iverson. Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were ready to bring Iverson in, but the owner of the Knicks thought Iverson had a bad reputation and was going to ruin the team's chemistry and stunt the development of the young guys on the team so he pulled out of it on the last minute.

No teams were interested in Iverson. Thirty-three days went by, and Iverson had not played an NBA game. About a week after not signing with the Knicks, Allen Iverson announced his retirement.

It was a sad day in the NBA, as one of the game's greatest was forced to retire because the media and league executives thought he could no longer play and was cancerous to a team.

Iverson wrote his retirement statement on his Web site and said he could still play at a high level and thanked his fans. Some team executives said they may bring Iverson in if somebody gets hurt on their roster, but the chances were not too high. Iverson was done with basketball.

Then it happened. Philadelphia 76ers point guard Louis Williams injured his jaw. The Sixers were left without a point guard.

It was like it happened for a reason, and somebody out there was on Iverson's side. Allen Iverson retires and Louis Williams breaks his jaw, and the team that Iverson became a legend on and the team that Iverson led for 10 years is left without a guard.

The Sixers' front office called Iverson's agent and a week later it was official: Allen Iverson was returning to the city of Philadelphia and was going to play for the 76ers again. It was too good to be true.

It was the perfect situation for Iverson: He was going to get his minutes with this team and his chance to prove people wrong, and the fans were all on his side.

Iverson cried in his press conference and said he is ready to prove people wrong and talked about how he is humbled about everything that has happened in the last year. He was excited that he was back where he belonged. He was returning home, and the basketball world loved it.

Iverson was obviously going to be rusty, having not played basketball for a month-and-a-half, but, it didn't matter how he played, the Sixers' fans were happy just to see the name Iverson back on a Sixers uniform.

Iverson was playing well despite being rusty and had a couple of 20-point games before his knee and shoulder got hurt. It put him out for about three more games, and now he is back.

Iverson is not going to play 35 minutes right away, but he is getting around 30 a night and is having an immediate impact on the team. He is already becoming their leader again, and the Sixers are playing off of him.

He is playing 30 minutes and is not taking over 12 shots a game and is having big games. He is playing efficiently and is shooting 48 percent. 

His season stats are down because the 20 minutes per game he was playing in Memphis and the first couple games in Philly were played with a lot of rust on him.

But when healthy in just 30 minutes on just 11 shots per game, Iverson is more efficient than ever and is a 20-point scorer.

Things have been looking good for Iverson since he came back home. He is welcomed and loved by the city and the team. He is being a good leader to the young guys and being a vocal leader on and off the court.

Iverson is already starting to prove to people that he is not stunting anyone's development and is not cancerous to any team.

For those who thought he was done, well, they thought wrong because Iverson is still getting to the hole like he always could and is getting to the line seven times every game.

He is leading the Sixers in FTA per game, and, now that his knee is recovering, he is getting his explosiveness and quickness back—and he will only get better. 

The Sixers need to get a rhythm going and start running Iverson more plays like they did last night against the Denver Nuggets.

Once Iverson is made the focal point of the Sixers' offense and gets about 35-38 minutes per game and about 16 shots per game, the Sixers will be one of the scariest teams in the league, and Allen Iverson will be putting up good numbers.

One thing that is for sure is that Iverson is just about ready to take control and lead the Sixers to the playoffs and prove that he is still one of the elite players in the league. The explosiveness is coming back, and the jumper is wet. Things are looking good for Iverson and the Sixers.

The Sixers have to make a decision by Wednesday if Iverson's contract is guaranteed or not, and it would be so disrespectful if they did not keep him.

He has been playing really well and has helped this team a lot. Around next week, the Sixers have to make a big decision, and it is a very, very easy decision.

Either they screw Iverson over or make him the "Answer" for the Philadelphia Sixers like he always was and like he is supposed to be.