Allen Iverson: Reality Bites

Jeremy Schmidt is the author Bucksketball. He’s a lifelong Iverson fan and felt the eulogy needed to be written as Iverson prepares to… whatever going to Turkey involves.

Is it the confidence we have in ourselves that breeds success or the success we experience that breeds the confidence?   We’ll never know of course.  For now, we just know they go hand in hand. In the NBA we’re talking about a group that represents the very finest in their field.  All of these players have been the best player on their teams for nearly all their lives by the time they enter the league. For the most elite, the very best of the best, they’ve never seen themselves or had others treat them like anything less than a star.

But what happens when their stars burn out and they’re left looking like just another guy on the court?  That’s when fairy tale careers end and choose your own adventure books start.  A player has to decide if he’s willing to admit he’s not what he used to be.  It involves a lot of pride swallowing and harsh realities, but if a player wants to stick around past his prime, he needs to understand things won’t be like they once were.  That’s the first route a player can choose.

Or a player can be Allen Iverson.

The Answer has always played by his own rules.  We’ve known for years now about Iverson’s aversion to practice and bad boy persona.  We’ve always suspected it was all about scoring and ball dominating with him, but there were some who thought maybe that’s just the way he knows how to win.  He’s always figured he was the best option on the court, they’d say, maybe he just wants to win games by getting himself the ball.  Recent reports of his flirtation with a Turkish team have really shown Iverson’s basketball frame of mind to all of us outside of his head.  To think that a player who three years ago averaged over 25 points per game can’t even get a minimum salary job in the NBA goes quite a ways in illustrating what sort of reality Iverson lives in.

He can’t admit to himself that he can’t score 25 a night for a 55 win team any more.  In our reality, Iverson could be useful to an NBA team as a scoring guard playing limited minutes off the bench. There’s no reason to think that, in theory, Iverson couldn’t fill a similar role to the one Jerryd Bayless plays at times with the Blazers.  Come off the bench, get points, return to bench, repeat process later.  Its the theoretical dream job for an aging gunner like Iverson.

But he can’t let go.

That’s why he freaked out after three games and 22 minutes a night in Memphis.  That’s why he doesn’t get a call from any NBA team this summer and that’s why he’s job hunting in Europe. It isn’t about the money any more, it’s about a player who can’t come to terms with who he is at this stage in his career.  He was at the forefront of Philadelphia’s attempts to recapture an NBA title in the late 90‘s into the 2000‘s and like so many other veterans he could be spending his time now offering his services out to contenders.  But no one is interested and it’s as if he can’t understand why.  He’s gone wrong where so many others went right.

Gary Payton was another outspoken guard with a penchant for getting himself in trouble when he was with the Sonics.  Not unlike Iverson, he came ohsoclose to the title he likely felt he deserved, only to fall to The Greatest Basketball Team of All-Time in 1997.  It never happened in Seattle again for Gary and he eventually was shipped out for fresh blood in the Ray Allen deal. After a shaky half-season with Milwaukee, Payton was at a crossroads at age 34.  He wasn’t the player he used to be, but still could be effective thanks to his size and knowledge of the game.  Payton took reduced roles over the next four years with the Lakers, Celtics and finally the Heat and eventually won that title he had always been looking for.

Allen Iverson is 34 years old.  His crossroad came last season and he made his choice.  His confidence has gotten the best of him.

We bid you farewell Answer, we wish you could have stayed here in reality longer.

Seth Carstens