Last week, Allen Iverson announced he was taking his talents to Turkey. Only unlike Lebron’s decision, AI’s move was pushed by the fact that no one in the NBA wanted him.
“This is about being wanted,” Iverson said at his farewell press conference in NYC.
Although he was never as big as Jordan, Kobe, or even Lebron, let it be known that Allen Iverson resonated with fans in a way those three corporate giants never could.
In fact, Iverson may be the most crucial figure of the NBA’s new generation. When he entered the NBA in 96, he brought a swagger, a streetness, to the league that mainstream America had rarely seen at the time. It’s hard to fathom now, but it wasn’t too long ago when the league was so weary of Al’s “hood look” that they airbrushed away some of his tattoos in a promotional booklet.
Al never conformed, never changed. He had gone through too much, climbed too many mountains–dude was put in jail during college in a controversial case that screamed racism–to give in to the man.
He was going to do things his way. It led to clashes with authorities, trouble with the law, league suspensions, none of it mattered, Al kept doing Al. For over a dozen years he thrilled fans of basketball with his relentless hustle and heart. He never won much, but much like Rocky in his first and last film–winning at the end isn’t all that mattered.
Ultimately, it’s that same “I ain’t changing for nobody” attitude that led to his exile from the league–he’d still have a job in the US if he wasn’t so stubborn–but there couldn’t have been any other way.
Many see his departure to Turkey as a sad, sad exit for one of the game’s greatest players. And while I agree with that sentiment too, you have to respect Al for refusing to give in, still, to this day.
We’ll always have the memories: That cross and J on MJ, leading the East from 21 down to take the all star game, the 50 point playoff duel with Vince, the ridiculous 33/8 season he put up in 2005, the Rocky Balboa parallels throughout his career, the return to Philly last year, and of course, the 2001 finals run (including a stunning game 1 victory over the juggernaut Lakers).
So yeah, Turkey it is. At his current stage, he may not help Turkey win much, but know this–Turkey fans will understand why Rocky is so beloved in America.
Here is an Iverson/Rocky video I made many years ago. I know it’s on someone else’s Myspace page now, but I SWEAR I made this video. I had it on my youtube account until 2006 when it was shut down for violating copyright laws. A few months later my computer died and I lost the video. Thankfully, this dude ripped it and uploaded it to his own site (probably taking credit for making this too).