John Smallwood: Iverson has only himself to blame for humbling overseas contract

With Turkish flag behind him, Allen Iverson admits he didn't take business seriously.
With Turkish flag behind him, Allen Iverson admits he didn't take business seriously.
Posted: October 30, 2010

I REMEMBER SITTING at a table across from Allen Iverson in 1996 at a Chicago hotel.

It was the NBA predraft interviews, and back then, players were more accessible, and if you were persistent, one-on-one interviews were easily gained.

Iverson wasn't yet the No. 1 overall pick of the 76ers but he talked a lot about what he expected from his NBA career. He even discussed how he'd know it was over.

Iverson said he didn't want to be a guy who just hung around. He didn't want to become the faded star whom some newbie would make his reputation on.

That was a long time ago.

Yesterday, Allen Iverson signed a 2-year contract worth $4 million to play with Besiktas, a professional team in Turkey.

Only two thoughts come to mind, and neither is pleasant.

First, Iverson is going to Turkey to play because he has to keep playing professional basketball. I don't know enough to venture a guess about his personal finances, but Iverson's indulgences with money are well known.

If monetary reasons are the case, I wouldn't feel sorry for him, because, considering the money he's made in his career, it's something he's brought upon himself. I'd consider it sad.

Second, what I'd find even sadder is that Iverson is playing in a second-rate league in Europe not for financial reasons, but because he needs to keep playing basketball - he can't let go of the status that the game has afforded him.

There are all kinds of addictions, and fame can be an overwhelming one.

And if that's the case, if going to Turkey is only about Iverson's desire to continue to play basketball, then I'm not sad, I'm angry.

This should not happen this way.

Iverson turned 35 in June. He's played a lot of basketball and has 14 years of NBA wear and tear on his slight frame.

Still, if Iverson wants to continue his basketball career, it should have been in the National Basketball Association.

That it did not happen is more testament to the fact that, as good as Iverson was, he cheated his teams, his teammates, his coaches and his fans by never taking the business of professional basketball as seriously as he should have.

With this last, desperation move to Turkey, Iverson's basketball career is finally cashing the checks that his lack of commitment continually wrote.

"What he's accomplished, I don't think you want to see him end his career this way," said Larry Brown, who coached Iverson during his golden era with the Sixers.

Brown could have easily added, "But the kid has no one to blame but himself."

It boils down to that.

Iverson can't get a job in the NBA because he was always too hardheaded, bull-headed and destructively independent to be worth dealing with at this juncture of his career.

Ownership stomached the high maintenance - skipped practices, feuds with coaches, questionable personal conduct - when Iverson was an MVP, an unstoppable scorer and a scintillating gate attraction.

Now that he not worth building your franchise around, Iverson is not worth the aggravation.

I find it kind of funny that Iverson said he was "a little surprised" that no NBA teams were willing even to invite him to a training camp.

They've finally stopped buying his lines. If any team believed Iverson yesterday when he, again, said he'd be willing to assume any role necessary, even coming off the bench, he'd already have an NBA job.

On Wednesday against the Sixers, the Miami Heat surrounded LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the nearly fossilized Juwan Howard and Jerry Stackhouse. Carlos Arroyo started at point guard.

Iverson has twice as much talent left as those three combined.

Even at his advanced age, Iverson's skill level is easily good enough to be in the top-seven rotation of every NBA team.

But a year ago, Iverson signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, saying he was willing to accept any role. As soon as that role involved coming off the bench for the first three games, Iverson forced Memphis to release him.

No contending team will gamble on Iverson's word that, after 14 years of in-your-face defiance, he's finally willing to play the good soldier at his personal expense.

"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 the St. Regis Hotel in New York yesterday. "I think it has a lot to do with a lot of other things, negative things that I could have had a better grip on.

"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."

Iverson could still be playing in the NBA, and he could do it without the concern of some young buck building a reputation off him.

Instead, he's off to Istanbul, and as he said, that's no one's fault but his own. *

Send e-mail to smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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