Allen Iverson Is Crying Wolf

Photo by @TheWagofMutombo

A shepherd-boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, “Wolf! Wolf!” and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains.

The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The Shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: “Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep”; but no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure lacerated or destroyed the whole flock.

via Short Stories: The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Aesop.

The extended NBA offseason has been littered with little morsels that hardly qualify as news, scavenged by those of us twisted enough to seek sustenance during lockout limbo. Among those slim pickings, Allen Iverson stands as a shining beacon of consistency. At least twice so far, Iverson offered up a familiar refrain; he is ready to play basketball in the NBA – for anyone – and he is willing to be a team player and do what is necessary in order to fit into a team’s structure. His most recent proclamation predictably came just days before an event featuring the Answer* is scheduled for November 12-13 in Las Vegas.

*Featuring might be a bit strong. Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire and Andre Igoudala, among others, are expected to participate.

The man who blazed a trail for Deron Williams by briefly signing with Besiktas in Turkey*even said that coming off the bench “makes it easier for him.” Iverson’s history says otherwise, unfortunately. Two of his last three stints in the NBA ended poorly, as he was unable to accept a limited role with the Pistons and Grizzlies, playing only three games with Memphis in his last action in the league. The only positive signing for Iverson recently was his contract with the Sixers. Due to personal issues, he quickly left the team; at least his last official uniform in the league was the one in which he performed so splendidly for so many years.

*Insomuch as they’re both point guards who signed contracts with said team, and Iverson’s came first chronologically. Other than that, their tenures have little in common, excepting Williams’s reported complaints which seemed to quiet when his play picked up.

That’s all emotional bunk, though; Iverson would gladly retire in any of the other 29 jerseys if it meant another chance to get on the floor in an NBA game. He is at his most candid when he says that he simply wants to play – words we’ve read countless times this offseason, that seemed so hollow when deployed as a PR campaign, that coming from Iverson sound sincere and revealing. Surely he wants to play above else; it’s why so many of his last, flailing attempts in the league ended poorly. He couldn’t accept not playing when he knew – even if no one else did – that he could help his team and make them better. He had his demons off the court, mental blocks that he says prevented him from concentrating as fully on the game at hand as he needs to in order to be Allen Iverson. He claims those obstacles are gone now. He’s ready to play.

The easy conclusion is that Iverson is crying wolf and doesn’t know when to stop for his own good. There’s something that always struck me as odd about that particular fable, however. While I assume that little children back in Aesop’s time were much hardier than I could ever hope to be at any point in my life, it seems that even a self-made prepubescent like the little bugger in The Boy Who Cried Wolf should have received some sort of intervention after the first or second time that he decided to pretend that a vicious apex carnivore was threatening his livelihood and his life. Maybe at that point the townsfolk who rushed to his help once or twice should have looked at each other and said, “You know what? How about we give the job that demands responsibility to someone who isn’t going to set the archetype for Bart Simpson?” When do the people who are at the apex of responsibility supposed to step in and actually be responsible? Doesn’t delegation depend on dependable people?

As much as I want to blame Iverson, this is his nature. He could be telling the truth, and his past may prevent all of us from ever knowing what he has left and what role he could play. In the off chance that he does get back into the league and is the Iverson of old – for the worse, not the better – I’ll have to wonder how many times the village elders who hired him have cried wolf themselves.

Andrew Lynch

When God Shammgod created the basketball universe, Andrew Lynch was there. His belief in the superiority of advanced statistics and the eventual triumph of expected value-based analytics stems from the fact that he’s roughly as old as the concept of counting. With that said, he still loves the beauty of basketball played at the highest level — it reminds him of the splendor of the first Olympics — and the stories that spring forth from the games, since he once beat Homer in a game of rock-paper-scissors over a cup of hemlock. Dude’s old.