Allen Iverson is going to announce his retirement from the NBA soon. First reported, appropriately, by SLAM Magazine, the 2001 NBA MVP and 11-time All-Star will call it quits after a star-crossed NBA career and short stint playing in Turkey. Iverson has not played an NBA game since Feb. 2010, and it’s fair to say that his time away from the game has brought more bad news than good.
Iverson leaves the NBA after being shunned by NBA squads to start the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, and presumably 2013-14 seasons. Though Allen wasn’t exactly a greybeard when he walked away from the Philadelphia 76ers in 2010 at the age of 34, it was probably that walk away that prematurely ended his NBA career.
NBA general managers were more than aware that Iverson also walked away from Philadelphia in December of 2006 (before being dealt to Denver), from the Detroit Pistons in the spring of 2009, from the Memphis Grizzlies later that year, and finally from the Sixers later that season. All were not amicable partings, with the teams in question thinking it best if Iverson stayed away from the arena than stick with the team.
Before that, Iverson’s scoring guard mentality allowed the diminutive 6-footer to rack up well over 24,000 points, a 26.7 career points per game average alongside 6.2 assists per game, and four NBA scoring titles along the way. He led a limited Philadelphia 76ers team to the NBA Finals in 2001, and made eight other playoff appearances. Along the way he worked as one of the league’s most popular players, a relatable person due to his relatively short stature amongst NBA giants, and a familiar presence and image (with cornrows and tattoos in full display well before they became the norm) to those well-versed with the changing culture of the late 1990s and early part of the 21st century.
Allen Iverson completely and at times ably represented what the NBA was all about during the post-Michael Jordan era. In a time filled with stiffening defenses, lax hand-checking laws and plenty of terrible 88-82 games, Iverson and his 42 percent career shooting percentage fit right in. He scored a lot, but he also shot a lot to get those gaudy numbers, and turned the ball over frequently. It’s true that Iverson had to do as much as a function of those limited 76ers teams, but he kept up the same practices in his several stops following that run with coach Larry Brown.
Iverson’s peak as a player, toppling the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers to take a 1-0 series lead in the 2001 Finals, was sadly brief. The All-Star clashed with Brown throughout 2001-02, failing to practice to Brown’s exacting standards and shooting below 40 percent in his team’s failed conference title defense. That spring’s infamous and embarrassing (as he belittled the late Phil Jasner, referring to him as “Phillip” over and over in a bullying, schoolyard tone) “practice” press conference led to a miserable summer that saw Iverson racked with felony charges after he locked his naked wife out of their house, before brandishing an unlicensed gun while searching for her later that night, reportedly threatening friends and cousins along the way.
The Sixers carried on with Iverson, but Brown would last just one more year, as Iverson’s low-efficiency game was becoming more and more obsolete. The trade to Denver energized him, Iverson raised his shooting percentages while attempting to fit in, but the “every point or assist has to go through me”-ideal just wasn’t a proper fit, and he was soon dealt to Detroit for Chauncey Billups – who led the Nuggets to the conference finals later that year. By then, Iverson had been out of the game for two months, leaving the Pistos in the first week of April prior to their playoff appearance, whiffing on a chance to secure a big contract while playing great ball for a younger team during his contract year.
Only the then-downtrodden Memphis Grizzlies came calling that summer, but when Iverson was unable to replicate his ball-dominating ways (once again being asked to come off the bench, which is what led to his basketball divorce in Detroit), Iverson left the team, stating “personal reasons.” He was waived soon after, and played only three games in Memphis. The 76ers signed Iverson later in the year, but he would walk away from the team just after the midpoint in the season, citing family and personal issues. He hasn’t played NBA ball since.
And, according to SLAM, he’ll never play it again. It makes sense, at age 38, to hang up the sneakers on a game that for Iverson was always about guile, speed and athleticism in the face of giants. It’s that trip from November 2008 until now that’s the frustrating part. Iverson had a chance to go out his own way, and to earn several more profitable contracts to aid in his reportedly significant off-court financial troubles.
Allen Iverson never wanted to age gracefully. He never changed, and that intractable trait that did him so well in the post-Michael Jordan era ultimately led to his too-soon NBA demise.
For a while there, though, Allen Iverson was something else. Literally something the NBA had never seen before. Those don’t come around too often, and we’re lucky if they stay so long.