The Tarnished Legacy of the Greatest NBA Draft Ever

Lou CappettaAnalyst IIMarch 2, 2010

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 20: Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers holds his head after being hit in the face during a game 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

Although it had been rumored for weeks, and a foregone conclusion by many basketball fans, Yahoo Sports is reporting that Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76er's will once again part ways.

Iverson, who hasn't been with the team since Feb. 21 due to personal reasons, has likely played his last game of this nightmarish season, and maybe of his career.

If this is the end of the road for Iverson, it's a less than glorious end for one of the NBA's all-time greats. Basically being exiled from the Memphis Grizzlies after only three games, then once again by the Sixers is surely not the way Iverson thought his Hall of Fame career would come to a close.

As sad as this may be for Iverson, as a member of the 1996 NBA draft class, it may be fitting.

Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in that draft, a draft many consider to be the greatest of all time. Yet, despite the overall perceived greatness of the 1996 NBA draft class, as time passes, its legacy gets more and more tarnished.

As good as this group of players has been on the court, they have also had their fair share of issues off the court, and as those players get older and their skills diminish, it no longer makes sense for teams to put up with their nonsense.

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Stephon Marbury, who epitomizes the "me" player, left every team he ever played for on less than amicable terms. He was one of the most talented players ever to grace the NBA, averaging more than 19 points and 7 assists per game for his career, yet after becoming a free agent after last season, he had no suitors, and consequently was out of the NBA by 32.

Antoine Walker went from a forward who was good for 20 points and 10 rebounds every night, to a guy who was out of shape, soft, and wanted to chuck up three pointers every possession. Like Marbury, Walker was out of the NBA before his 32nd birthday, and since had has run-ins with the law and has filed for bankruptcy.

Walker should have had his number retired by the Celtics as one of the games greats, rather than finishing his playing days as a member of the Guaynabo Mets (the team Walker recently signed with).

Even the 1996 draft's greatest player, Kobe Bryant, who should be remembered for his tremendous numbers and four (and counting) championships, will also forever be remembered for his clashing with former teammate Shaquille O'Neal and the accusations of rape against him.

So Iverson happens to be the latest in a series of sad stories from the 1996 NBA draft class. If Iverson's career is really done, this 2009-10 NBA season may forever shadow a career that should be remembered for A.I. being the best "little man" ever to play, his dominant 2001 MVP season, in which he lead arguably one of the weakest supporting casts ever to the NBA Finals, and guy who gave his all on the court.

Sure there are players like Steve Nash, Ray Allen, and Peja Stojakovic who not only have never had any problems, but have also had terrific, and in the case of Allen and Nash, Hall of Fame careers. In fact, the problem players of the 1996 NBA draft are the minority, but with the scandal-driven society we live in, they've become the face of what should be remembered as the greatest NBA draft ever, but probably won't.