SportsProf

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Allen Iverson to Retire?

So says reports on ESPN.com.

This report raises a lot of questions, such as:

1) what will he be remembered most for;
2) what will he retire to; and
3) is he a Hall of Famer?

As for the third question, it's both rhetorical and actual. My guess is that he'll be voted into the Hall because of the ratio of his individual effort to his size, as opposed to his shooting percentage, his unselfishness and his ability to make his teammates better. He has the numbers for the Hall, and he'll get in. Whether or not he's a Hall of Famer existentially is a different question. His backers will stress his effort, especially for his size, his MVP season and contend that he carried the 76ers without a bona fide lead supporting player, in that the Philadelphia team never got him a Scottie Pippen for their (poor man's) version of Michael Jordan and that playing with the George Lynches of the world failed to enable him to shine.

Interesting point, but he couldn't play with Jerry Stackhouse, who, when he was young, was teed up to be a star in the NBA (his prep and college bona fides suggested he would be). And, if he had someone better than a young Stackhouse, an established NBA star, would Iverson have known how to play with him? Or, would Iverson have insisted upon the limelight, tried to do it on his own during crunch time (and how many times did 76er fans see shots taken in 1 on 3 situations), and frozen out the star? It's hard to argue that Iverson would have shown his true greatness playing alongside a Pippen-like player. To the contrary, that situation would have underscored, even more, 76ers' fans and basketball purists' frustrations with him.

As did his stint in Denver, where he couldn't mesh with a more talented team than Philadelphia's and so frustrated were the Nuggets that they peddled him to Detroit for a perhaps less talented but much more team oriented and, as a result, valued player (at the time) in Chauncey Billups. And then Iverson failed to mesh in Detroit because he didn't like being a sixth man, even though, at age 31, that was perhaps the role that he was best-suited for. What made Iverson fearless and, at times, brilliant, also brought him down -- his unwillingness to compromise under any circumstances.

So, is Iverson a "Hall of Famer" in a different sense -- one that considers teamwork ahead of numbers? The answer is no. Sure, it's unfair to judge any player by a lack of championship rings. Sometimes so-so players earn rings because they're in the right place at the right time. Not to knock them, but many players could have played the eight-man in the rotation role (or beyond) on the Michael Jordan Bulls -- but only a handful did, and they have multiple rings. By the same token, Iverson seemed to frustrate those he coached, had that infamous "practice" rant, seemed to be a source of friction for the 76ers when Larry Brown coached them, and didn't seem to make his teammates better and, better yet, to lead.

Michael Jordan led. A player would join the Bulls, and he would say (as he did to Steve Kerr), "Hey, we've got to get you a ring." Jordan would practice the hardest, and he'd get into teammates' faces if he didn't believe they were working hard enough. (A friend who was in the Celtics' training camp decades ago recalled how Larry Bird always had to be the last player out of the gym; he spent hours shooting the ball). Iverson? To be fair, he played very hard in games, but he didn't appear to do any of that. And if the player to whom the others were required to defer doesn't do that stuff, then the team seems more about him and the show that he can put on that it is about winning.

It's hard to imagine Allen Iverson retired. Perhaps he needs a year to replenish a battered body, as he's a smallish guy who has taken a pounding over the years and given many a courageous personal effort. Perhaps he'll use that year to rehabilitate his image and take a shot at a comeback next season, as it's just hard to believe at such a young age he'll be happy sitting in the elementary school carpool line or riding a hybrid bike on bikepaths after spending half the morning at the breakfast table doing the crossword puzzle.

The bet here is that he'll be back.

And he'll accept a role off the bench.

Unless. . .

he opts for huge bucks as a drawing card somewhere overseas.

But in some of those towns, fans take their hoops really seriously.

And they care if you go to practice.

And might stone you if you don't.

1 Comments:

Anonymous rakeback said...

I still think Iverson has something in the tank. The real test will be how he reacts to reduced minutes and not being the focal point of the offense.

8:30 PM  

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