Sports

Allen Iverson: Jive Turkey?


Are you telling me that at 35 years young, AI can’t still fill it up?  Or is it that he’s such a problem grown-ass-man that no team in the NBA will take a flyer on someone who can provide instant offense and a dose of competitive fire to any roster?

On Friday, Allen Iverson signed a 2-year/$4 million contract to play the game — the game he dies for –- with Turkish team Besiktas.  It looks like a solemn end in the tale of one of the most significant careers of any athlete in the last 25 years.

His on-court exploits are there for everyone to see, so I won’t cover it here.  It’s off the court where he really made his mark.

“The Answer” is and was nothing short of a cultural icon.  He gave license to a generation of youths to do what they do, while staying true to themselves (as they see themselves).  Catch phrases like “do your thing,” and “keep it real” entered the American lexicon after AI came along and that’s no accident.  He even brought sneaker brand Reebok back into the mainstream.

So a player who can still bring it on the court can’t find a job in this man’s NBA?  A player who still has enough cultural cache and can still sell tickets (fans voted him onto last year’s Eastern Conference all-star team) can’t find a role on any of the league’s 30 something teams?

This makes me mad.  The problem is… I’m not sure why?

Iverson admittedly has made his own bed on this one and he’s very much responsible for his – let’s call it “exile.”

“I don’t think my basketball talents have anything to do with the reasons I’m not on an NBA roster right now,” Iverson said at a news conference in NYC to announce his move.

“A lot of me not being in the NBA is my fault . . . I made mistakes, so me not being on an NBA roster, and me being bad-mouthed throughout the league, a lot of things, I have to own up to.

“A lot of those things are true, and obviously, it cost me.”

I’m all for personal responsibility and AI clearly accepts it.  But there’s something else at work here.   Something that stinks.  Iverson can’t get an NBA job and it’s not for basketball reasons.  The Answer can’t get a job here and it’s not for business reasons – the terrible 76ers were selling out games in which he was playing.

He’s taken his talents to Istanbul because at some time in the last few years, it became ok to blacklist people.  In sports, entertainment and other walks of life, talented and valuable contributors aren’t allowed to do their thing because a bunch of people sat in a room (without them) and decided that they’re not worth the hassle.

This is the year of the blacklist.  Barry Bonds, Iverson and soon Randy Moss are just three examples of a disturbing trend and I’m calling on President Obama to put a stop to it.

Fortunately for AI, he’s going to a new country and will come back personally (and financially) richer for the experience.  Travel does that to people.  Maybe he can even be the bridge to the Islamic world that the west sorely needs, connecting the culture our youth culture to theirs.