In case you haven't seen this already, you should watch it before reading on:

If you read this site regularly, then you already know how critical I am of Allen Iverson. I simply don't believe he ranks among the greatest players of all time. Not in the top 50 anyway. I think he's a careless, inefficient shooter who needs to dominate the basketball to be effective, and his effectiveness (read that, ball hoggery) has often come at the expense of his teammates. Furthermore, his "defense" consists of gambling for steals and getting pushed around/shot over by bigger guards (which is just about every guard).

You can disagree with me all you want, but bigtime scorers -- and Iverson ranks pretty high in the league's all-time scoring list -- usually don't languish away, alone and unwanted, when they hit free agency. Not when they clearly have something left in the tank. But that's exactly what happened to Iverson last summer, and it happened with good reason. The lowly Memphis Grizzlies were the only team eventually willing to give him a chance, and he played exactly one game for them before stirring up controversy about having to come off the bench. Forget the fact that he was both out of shape and returning from an injury that had prevented him from playing and practicing with his teammates during the preseason.

He didn't get it. He's never gotten it. Not really. Not fully.

Now he's back with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that drafted him and helped him reach MVP status. Sure, the Sixers only had one great season during the Iverson era. But the team's failings were often foisted on his teammates. And the feeling was that, if Iverson could only be surrounded by other talented, proven players, that he would finally become the consistent winner everyone expected him to be. Well, he got his chances, but things didn't work out with the Nuggets (who traded him for Chauncey Billups and immediately became a better team) or the Pistons (whose fall from grace after acquiring Iverson was as shocking as it was immediate). By the end of his time in Detroit, the Pistons didn't even want him around...and by the end of the season he had been exiled.

So yes, he has an MVP and a trip to the Finals. But the rest of the evidence against him is pretty damning.

But that brings us back to that video of his press conference. I have and will always question Iverson's relative greatness, but I will not (nor could I reasonably) question his passion and desire for the game. Iverson is a warrior. He's tough. He's mean. When he's on the court, Iverson has the eyes of a killer. A.I. wants it. You can tell he wants it, wants to win, wants to be appreciated and loved. And he can play! The dude can score and create with the best of them.

That's what's so galling about Iverson. He has everything you want, every talent necessary for the game of basketball (if not the size). He has everything...except that fundamental understanding of what it takes to succeed. Sacrifice. Not sacrifice of body and effort. Iverson has sacrificed himself physically as much or moreso than anybody. I'm talking about sacrificing shots, sacrificing touches, sacrificing the role (starter) and minutes (lots of him) he wants for the betterment of the team. In Iverson's world, it has always been His Way or No Way. That's the real reason nobody wanted him over the summer. That's why nobody wanted him all that badly when the Grizzlies waived him. Sure, the Knicks were interested -- they're about as hapless as a team not named "The New Jersey Nets" or "Minnesota Timberwolves" can get -- and now the Sixers have signed him.

But what does that mean?

Philly is 5-14 and they've lost eight games in a row. (Although they've had a brutal schedule that's included games against the Cavs, Celtics, Hawks, Mavs and Spurs.) Do they think A.I. can fix them? Well, with Louis Williams out two months with a broken jaw, the Sixers can use some relief at point guard. But he's a temporary fix at best, a stop gap more than The Answer. But it's more likely that bringing Iverson back is a public relations move. It's the return of a former hero for what could amount to a retirement tour. That's sure to distract fans from all the losing...not to mention Elton Brand's cap killing contract.

It's possible Iverson's return could give the Sixers a mini-boost. Although their upcoming schedule is pretty tough: at Charlotte (the 'Cats are 6-3 at home), then home against the Nuggets, Pistons, Rockets, Warriors and Cavs, and then they play seven of their next eight games on the road...a stretch that starts in Boston and ends in Denver. Fortunately, Philly gets to play the injury-plagued Pistons, the defenseless Warriors, the Wizards Generals and Clippers (twice) during that stretch. So who knows? Maybe Philly can go .500 during Iverson's first 20 games or so. Maybe.

I have to admit, I feel genuinely bad for Iverson. I really don't believe his inefficiency (at best) and selfishness (at worst) is intentional. He simply doesn't know any other way. It's the story of the Scorpion and the Frog all over again: it's his nature. Maybe it's because his coaches never stood up to him early on. The only coach that ever tried the tough love angle with A.I. was Chris Ford. Want to know how that turned out? (Well, before Ford got fired, anyway.) "This led to a number of contentious incidents, including Iverson being suspended for missing practice, fined for failing to notify Ford that Iverson would not attend a game because he was sick, and refusing to play in game because he felt 'insulted' that Ford wanted Iverson to come off the bench as he worked his way back from an injury." Sound familiar? Some things never change...and probably never will.

And it's too bad. Because if you look in Iverson's eyes, and when you hear him get all choked up about playing basketball, you can tell he wants it. But he's never going to get it.

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Blogger Dan B. said...
Well put. If Iverson could channel that emotion and heart into "desire to do whatever it takes to help the team win" instead of "desire to single-handedly win the game for myself," he'd be one of the greats. It'd give him reason to play tougher defense, pass the ball into the lane or kick out for the open jumper, choose higher percentage shots, work with teammates and coaches instead of against them, etc. Unfortunately, that just will never, ever happen. (First off, it requires practice. Whoops.)

Random aside... I just saw this reposted on Skeets' twitter feed: "RT @scottcarefoot: Fun Nets trivia: Haven't won a game without Vince Carter since Dec. 22, 2004. They were 0-11 w/out VC before the trade. " Ouch.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You're kidding me, right? That performance was about as fake as Terrell Owens crying "that my team, that's my quarterback" after stinking it up in the playoffs. Iverson will never get it, especially if it took this long for him to realize that no one wanted him.

I am rooting for Louis Williams to heal up fast just so Iverson can pout again about having to come off the bench. The sooner this fool is out of the league, the better off we'll all be.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Dan B. -- Who knew Vince Carter was the Difference Maker for the Nets? I guess bailing out and settling for jumpers is the key to helping your team win. If that's the case, then Tyrus Thomas has a brilliant future as an NBA winner.

Anonymous -- You know, I'm pretty cynical, but it didn't strike me as fake. A.I. is one of those guys who pretty much wears his heart on his sleeve. If he feels it, he says it. His feelings always seem pretty genuine, which is probably why he comes off like an idiot most of the time.

Anonymous whalemanpw said...
I'm gonna stick up for AI just a little bit...a big part of the problem is teams and the media play up the Sign-Iverson-As-A-Gate-Attraction-To-Sell-More-Tickets angle. If people are telling the man that they want him so people will come watch their sorry-ass basketball team, then I don't think he's out of line for expecting to play a lot. The "Main Attraction" (in the parlance of our times) is a starter who plays the bulk of the game...not a guy who comes off the bench. AI may have a pumped-up image of himself, but I don't think that image is helped by those who wish to profit off of him.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
whalemanpw -- You know, I think the Grizzlies were legit in their intentions for A.I., that is, that they were genuinely bringing him in to help. TrueHoop had a post with comments from the Memphis owner, and there were legit reasons for not starting him. He was hurt, he hadn't had many reps with his teammates, and the team doctor had prescribed a schedule with limited minutes, and they team was trying to stick by that.

If they only wanted to sell tickets, they would have trotted A.I. out as a starter and given him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. The fact that they didn't tells me that wanted to use him as a functional part of the team as opposed to a sideshow.

The Sixers? Eh, I'm not so sure. I mean, yes, they want to win. Who doesn't? But I think drawing attention and fan interest was reason numero uno for the one-year deal.

Anonymous Shrugz said...
I guess Lebron announcing that he's 50/50 now instead of 100% going into the dunk contest is going to get burried under the AI stuff HAHAH good timing I suppose but really now this?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I agree, with this article. Iverson has or at least had all of the talent in the world. He's probably one of the most talented scoring guards in history. But it seemed to be all about his personal glory. Whether he admits it or not, he would rather be a human highlight reel and put up 40 than score 8 points off the bench and win the game. He has always had a low number of assists relative to his playing time and touches. When he was younger, he was athletic enough to get by on that style of play making one long run and still ultimately losing in the finals. I do agree that his emotion in the interview was legit, hes clearly an emotional guy, if you actually listen to the long rambling interview he contradicts himself repeatedly. The fact of the matter is hes just not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Blogger plonden said...
Here is a link to a interesting radio interview with Sixers GM Ed Stefanski discussing the Iverson signing. There are some tense moments and they discuss pretty much everything including whether the signing is a business move or a basketball move.

Anonymous Ian said...
The whole Vince Carter streak, I didn't look into it but it strikes me as not feasible because I am quite certain Vince has missed some games as a member of the Nets, due to all his "injuries" and I am sure they won a game or two in that time frame.

Thus, they haven't won a game without Vince on their roster since 2004 but I am almost 100% sure that they have won without him playing a single minute within that time frame.

Maybe somebody more into stats can look into it?

And I too think that Iverson was being for real, he may not be the most selfless person in the world but no one can deny his motivation to win, even if those motivations are stemmed from the wrong reasons.

AI will make the 76ers better, probably moreso than Lou Williams can because even an older Iverson has the ability to change a game here and there. The 76ers will just have to accept that this is now Iverson's team, if that is a good thing or not, especially long term, is quite debatable. I am als sure that Iguodala never wanted to be the other AI again but Iverson's shadow is still big enough to make that happen.

My verdict is a short term gain for a long term loss for the 76ers, then again AI can't be worst than Brand at this point anyways.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
This saga is sad to me, because he is the player that convinced me that seeing in person can be completely different from watching on TV. Which I suppose is why he's used by the media and as a ticket seller.

Or maybe he's attached to his Min per Game career record, which as a modern day player is pretty remarkable.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Ian: Yahoo's game logs for Vince Carter show games where he played 0:00 and the result of the game. Going back through the years, yes, every Nets game without Vince Carter has been a loss since Dec 22, 2004 vs Cleveland, and Vince had only recently joined the team. This includes a 5 game stretch Nov 2007, which of course pales in comparison to the 2009-10 Nets.

Anonymous Ian said...
Oh wow that's pretty bawful, I stand corrected I just kind of thought it was impossible they never won without him at all, haha.

Thanks AnacondaHL

Anonymous Mike said...
Off the topic of this post. A few posts ago you implied that the Hawks are essentially pretenders and every one is getting a bit too excited about their hot start(I believe it was about the time they were #1 in the power rankings). But in this article you include them in a group of good teams that have contributed to the sixers poor start.
Freudian slip or do you finally believe the Hawks are legit?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think there's a lot of unfair Elton Brand maligning going on in the world right now. As a Sixers fan, I implore you, Bawful, to actually check out a Sixers game one of these days. You'll notice that Brand is actually playing really well. Only problem? He can't get off the bench because Eddie Jordan is the worst coach in NBA history. Seriously, check out his rotations. He has Willie Green (who might, literally, be the worst player in the NBA) playing 38+ minutes a night. Basically what I'm saying is that for every game the Sixers lose this season -- and there will be a lot of them -- Eddie Jordan should get a WOTN every time.

If you go check out my site as a 25-year-old Philadelphian and diehard Sixers fan, you'll know my love for Allen Iverson knows no bounds. But I agree with most of your criticisms to an extent.

One thing I would like to point out, however, is when you say the Sixers had only one great season with Iverson, yes, that's true, but the Sixers also made the playoffs five straight years with Iverson, and six out of his 10 seasons in Philadelphia, getting there in just his third season. Prior to that, the Sixers were essentially the Clippers for a while, and weren't in the playoffs since the 90-91 season until Iverson arrived and revived the franchise.

He certainly had his flaws and like you said, didn't get it, but to cast off what he did help the Sixers franchise accomplish with the exception of giving him just one season of credit is a little misguided.

Shockingly though, I'm still a devoted reader through and through here despite our differing views on Iverson. A reasonable Philadelphian? Shocking, I know.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Mike -- I never said the Hawks weren't a good team. They are, and they have been for the last couple seasons. That said, every time they go on a hot streak, everybody gets all goose bumpy talking about how the Hawks have become contenders. But...they really aren't. Not for a championship, anyway. They're going to make the playoffs, and they'll probably make a better team sweat it out in the Eastern semis. But that's pretty much their ceiling this season. They're no better than fourth in the East.

Anonymous -- I agree to an extent, and I think Elton is a really poor fit for that system. But I also think that Brand has spent many years as The Man bad teams, and he can't really adjust his game to different styles.

Reverend Paul Revere -- I respect your opinions, but don't forget that the East was flat out terrible during the years A.I. was leading the Sixers to the playoffs. That's why the Eastern champ was routinely carved into nibblets by the Western champ. By the time the East started to come back in 2003-04, it was out of the playoffs (2004), seventh seed/first round exit (2005), out of the playoffs (2006).

Look, A.I. played his ass off for Philly and the Sixers. He did. He always gave a great show, every night. I'm not taking any of that away from him. But in the final analysis, he was and apparently still is missing a fundamental understanding of the game, not to mention teammates. I mean, people on the Nuggets and Pistons all gave passive-aggressive "We're better off without him" statements and none of his former teammates really stepped up to contradict the basic assertions that A.I. wasn't good from the team aspect. Larry Brown did, and that counts for something. But he was also a father figure for A.I., so his emotions might be compromised.

That said, you are an incredibly reasonable Philadelphian.

Anonymous Mike said...
I agree that the Hawks are only the 4th best team in the East. I doubt anyone in their right mind could argue them being any higher. And I agree with everything else you said as well although I'd add that I also belive they are capable of upsetting one of the top 3 eastern teams in the semis(fanish, yes I know but I believe it all the same). The reason I think people "get all goose bumpy" is because this is not something you've seen out of the Hawks in a long time - when you've been as bad as the Hawks have been every step forward is magnified - case and point, this year's Bucks team - and there are bound to be overreactions but they have made themselves contenders even if the championship is still out of reach

Now if they lose Joe Johnson next year and don't get another free agent and a legitimate big man and take a step back from what we are all getting accustomed to see them doing then everyone will be just as quick to overeact about how much of a step back they've taken.

Definitely won't argue with your overall analysis as far as having those fundamental flaws. Guess that's why he and Philly fit so well. Both flawed to a fault but too prideful to change their ways.

Blogger Sos said...
Mario West siting! He's with the Maine Red Claws of the D League. Just saw him finish a strong and 1.

Anonymous AdriĆ  said...
Thanks for writing great stuff and keeping us updated. It's not all about stats, and it's not about your only and sacred point of view either. I think there's a great balance here.

And, in addition, though it's not related: For a genious review of NBA 2k10:

I think this guy knows the game more than his hands, and I confirmed it watching his other videos.

He has also an interesting view of NBA Live 10:

I thought about all that because I remembered the post about NBA 2k10 made some weeks ago.

And finally, reading the article about Iverson, and relating it to a book that I read recently written by a sports journalist: I think one important thing that has changed by the time is rivalry. The only thing people talks about LeBron is where he will go next summer; when Kobe and Shaq were playing together there were plenty of ballots to vote for who leaved first, and the trades involving franchise-related players, like Vince Carter, AI himself, Jason Kidd, among others.
Of course, it's been all about the money, but years ago, in a "whatever" team vs "blablah" team, you knew who where the stars of them both. I agree that now it's easier for the rookie players to develop their talent, because there is more roster changes, but, for example, take a look at the All-Star game... IT SUCKS, and years ago (every time I think about it is more years ago) it was the Greatest game of the season. Sometimes it seems some players miss a competitive game instead of the bullshit that has been last years... and I think that because rivalry has almost disappeared.
Ok, Phoenix vs San Antonio series weren't bad, but Bruce Lee Bowen is no longer here to give extra motivation and expectation to the game.

I would like to discuss this a lot more, but I want to know other points of view, and I leave the question here. Thanks

Anonymous Dave. said...
Disregarding all other arguments, I'd like to take up the case of AI being unwanted at this stage in his career.
Given parallel economic situations, would Dominique Wilkins or Bernard King have been in any different position at this stage in their careers?
Wilkins got work with the Spurs and Magic after his tenure with the Celtics was so disasterous for his numbers her left for Europe, and he worked off the bench with the Spurs and Magic because he was broke down by that stage and couldn't play starter's minutes - unlike AI at this point.
Likewise 'Nard failed to garner attention from contenders at the same point, even when he was healthy enough to start he was playing for cellar dwellars.
Just sayin' you might be calling for unprecedented when it is precedented.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
As an actual season ticket holder while AI was in philly I think your a little off base. I think AI has had a similar problem as philly QB Mcnabb. AI spent most of his career playing with garbage, plain and simple. It kills me how people say he didn't make his teammates better. He took a team full of bums to the NBA finals. I sat in the seats and watched many games where his teammates didn't even want the ball. He didn't make his teams better? How were the sixers before he was drafted? How have the sixers been since he left? Denver was also a better team after he arrived. And if they didn't have to play the Lakers in he first round they probably would have gone further in the playoffs. Detroit was a bad situation, as was memphis. I think they were 2 places he went for the wrong reasons. Even at 34 he is better than anything the sixers currently have, and i think he's got another 2-3 years left in the tank. All the talk about "there are 4 other players on the court" is BS when the other 4 are garbage. Name me one player in NBA history that took garbage with him to a championship series? Not Jordan, not Magic, not Shaq, not Lebron, and i can go on. I can't think of any team in NBA history who made it that far with the talent the sixers had. Doesn't make his teammates better? I think he does. I won't defend some of his antics, as i wouldn't defend Kobe, Jordan, Tiger, Ray Lewis, Magic, or any other young athlete with millions of dollars who makes mistakes, but I also won't try and diminish a stellar career that I had a pleasure to watch. Wasn't Jordan just a scorer before Pippen joined him in Chicago? What was Kobe after Shaq left? Just a scorer until Gasol, Odom, and other proven players were brought in. One more issue i have is the double standard with certain players. I will keep it brief to just one other guy who spent alot of his career in philly, Charles Barkley. Another great player, but here are some of his trangressions that I can recall. Arrested for carrying an unregistered handgun, spitting on a fan, throwing a bar patron through a window, had at least 2 other bar fights including breakings peoples jaws and noses, numerous gambling debt issues. Hey Ken, is he in your top 50 players. What did he do with a talent stacked team in Phoenix? What did he do in philly?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
well in fairness to john thompson he took no shit from iverson when at georgetown for two years

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I don't really feel that winning the 2001 Eastern Conference finals cements Iverson's greatness or anything. The 76ers were a shot away from losing to a Vince Carter-led team, then took seven games to beat the Bucks. There's no glory in being the top turd in a pile of dog shit.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
"He took a team full of bums to the finals" says anonymous.

This is the huge myth that AI defenders hang their hat on... but the fact is that philly team succeeded because they were an excellent DEFENSIVE team full of defensive-minded role players. I'm not saying he had nothing to do with that run, he did... but I hate the "he took a crap team to the finals" nonsense. Its just not true.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
One more response to Anonymous:
"Wasn't Jordan just a scorer before Pippen joined him in Chicago? What was Kobe after Shaq left?"

No, but even if that was the case, it's not a very good comparison. There are scorers, and then there are scorers. Not all points are created equal.

Jordan - 1.31 points per shot. (and keep in mind that this is brought down by his mediocre final seasons with the Wizards. At his peak he was scoring well over 1.4 points per shot.)

Kobe - Also 1.31 points per shot.

Iverson - 1.22 points per shot.

See the difference?

Blogger stephanie g said...
Oden's knee exploded into a million billion pieces and Kobe hit a stupid running three banked in game winner. There is no god, fate is a cruel mistress, etc.

Blogger Dunpizzle said...
So much for the Greg Oden watch

Anonymous the Oden Apologist said...
is devastated. wish GO the best and hope he comes back so we can have an oden watch again. My head knows he is going to be injury prone his whole career, but I still hold out hope to see him blosom. I was going to write after the houston game to congratulate him on getting through his 82 game, but he did not even get there.

not a big believer in the karma of the basketball gods right now.

Blogger Nick Flynt said...
YES. Greg Oden is the new Sam Bowie. The Great Northwest is running out of hope. No more Seattle, no more Oden. Kill yourselves.

Anonymous AdriĆ  said...
I hope Oden has B plan, because basketball won't be an option anymore

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous next year's gonna be better, greg said...
haha the a.i. coments have become about oden's knee

btw, nice article. agree with it 100%. been a fan for a long time mr. bawful, keep it up! (mancrush)