Does Allen Iverson Deserve One More Chance In The NBA?
Let’s face it: The 2011 NBA Finals are jam-packed with superstars this year. From LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, the Finals have shown that there’s clearly no shortage of talent thriving in the NBA today. So it’s only natural that a story about Allen Iverson that hit the press this week isn’t getting as much attention as it would if the league was hard up for marquee names right now.
In the story—featured in the August 2011 issue of SLAM, which also includes a cover shot of Iverson to help the magazine celebrate its’ 150th issue—AI basically throws his hat back into the ring for next season by telling SLAM‘s Tzvi Twersky that, at the age of 36, he still thinks he can play in the NBA. And, more importantly, he mentions that he’s willing to accept any role that’s given to him in order to do it. “When I look at basketball and when I know what I can do on the basketball court, it’s hard knowing that I went through a whole NBA season and didn’t play when I know how much I can play,” he says. “I’ll play for a team in any capacity just to get back out there doing what I love to do.”
It’s not exactly a shocking revelation—AI, of course, petitioned to play in the league before the start of this season before eventually signing on to play in Turkey—but it does beg the question: Does Allen Iverson, one of the most prolific players of his era, deserve one more crack at the NBA?
The easy answer here is no. Just two years ago, we all sat by and watched as AI essentially said the same exact thing as his career sputtered along. He agreed to join the Memphis Grizzlies—a team that would have been completely off AI’s radar just a few years ago—and lasted just a few weeks with the team before he left, citing “personal reasons.” He later rejoined the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that originally drafted AI back in 1996, and it was believed that that would be his last hurrah—that he would finish off the year with the Sixers and then ride off into the sunset. But after an emotional start to his return to the City of Brotherly Love, AI more or less fizzled out towards the end of the year and didn’t receive a proper send-off. Part of that was the Sixers weren’t very good; the other part was that neither was AI.
On the other hand, it does seem like Iverson’s got some basketball left in him. He hasn’t played much over the course of the last year—thanks in part to a leg injury that sidelined him for much of last season in Turkey as well as disputes over his payments in Turkey, which led him to sit out a number of practices and games. He also clearly has the desire to get back into the league and, despite reports about alleged struggles with alcohol, AI still appears to be in decent shape for a guy who hasn’t played much basketball recently. And throw in the fact that the aforementioned Kidd is actually two years older than Iverson and thriving as a member of the Dallas Mavericks and you’ve got yourself quite an argument for AI to give the NBA one final shot.
Of course, the one question about Iverson that always has and always will be asked in reference to him is: How willing is he to be a good teammate? Any team that even thinks about taking him onto its roster has to ask that question and be comfortable with the answer they come up with. Iverson, throughout all of his years in the NBA, always gave everything he had on the court. He was always tenacious and always pushed as hard as he could to try and help his team win. But he also hasn’t shown the ability to mature into the type of teammatewho doesn’t need to drop 25 points every night to make a difference on the court. If a team realistically thought AI could come in, give them some quality minutes on the court, and school a young point guard in practice, they would have picked him up by now.
What Iverson needs to do before he even thinks about making a comeback is prove that he can be that guy now. He needs to either get into the ear of one of the league’s young up-and-coming point guards—John Wall? Tyreke Evans? Russell Westbrook?—and let them know that he wants to play for their team in a supporting role. Or, he needs to find a veteran-laden group of guys (the Miami Heat come to mind) who need a vet with lots of experience to give them some minutes, score a few points, and add some offensive firepower to their lineup. But they don’t need the AI of ’01—they need the AI of ’11.
Basically, Iverson needs to prove one last thing to the world before he finally calls it quits. He needs to prove that he’s not the same selfish, me-first player who came into the league back in ’96. He needs to prove that he’s not going to destroy the team that decides to sign him. He needs to prove that he really wants to play again.
The NBA is full of superstars right now. So all AI needs to do to get roster spot with an NBA team next season is prove that he doesn’t feel the need to be one of them anymore. For once, he needs to show that he doesn’t have to be the center of attention. And if he thinks he can really do that, he deserves the chance to prove it.