Keep it real, A.I.: You're done

Posted: January 31, 2013

OK, CAN WE all now finally accept that Allen Iverson's NBA career is done? His time as one of the most dynamic players in NBA history is over.

Those who say Iverson would be one of the better players in the league today still are dazzled by what was, instead of seeing the reality of what is.

Iverson is a 37-year-old with a broken-up and abused body who hasn't played competitive basketball since a 10-game stint with a second-tier team in Turkey that ended in January 2011.

He knows he has nothing left in his tank. He just doesn't want us to know for sure.

On Tuesday, Iverson announced through his Twitter feed that he had turned down an offer to join the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks.

"I thank Donnie [Walsh, Legends co-owner and Mavericks president of basketball operations] and Dallas for the consideration," Iverson tweeted, "and while I think the D-League is a great opportunity, it is not the route for me."

I spent more than a decade covering Iverson's electric era with the Sixers, and I still can't understand the basic principle that directs his logic.

Iverson's manager, Gary Moore, told USA TodaySports that Iverson is working out in North Carolina and might explore other opportunities to play in the NBA this season, presumably off the bench as a role player. He hasn't played in the NBA since his short comeback to the Sixers ended prematurely after 25 games in 2009-10.

He tweeted on Tuesday, "My dream has always been to complete my legacy in the NBA."

OK, so what am I missing here?

The Legends are affiliated with the Mavericks and are co-owned by the top player-personnel guy in the NBA team's organization.

What better route back could there be for Iverson?

At this stage of his career, with whatever basketball skills he might have left, there is no other road back to the NBA.

I know that Iverson feels he's been blackballed out of the Association because of his past behaviors and not his skills.

"I realize my actions contributed to my early departure from the NBA," he tweeted.

Two years ago, when Iverson couldn't even get an invitation to a training camp for the 2010-11 season, I would have agreed with that. But not now. In 2013, it's not about whether Iverson's ability is worth the potential headaches he could cause for a team.

In 2013, it's all about everyone believing that a 37-year-old with a body that he never took proper care of and a game predicated on speed and quickness cannot play at the NBA level.

It is completely ignorant for Iverson to think that some NBA team is suddenly going to instantly put him on its roster. Whatever chance Iverson has of ever playing in the NBA again rests on him proving to some team that he still has enough skills left to take a chance on him.

From the Legends' standpoint, there probably is some gimmick element of playing off Iverson's name to draw attention, but it's not like teams in China or the Rochester Lancers of Major Indoor Soccer offering him jobs.

The D-League is a legitimate path to the NBA that has been successfully walked by many players over the years. In the 2011-12 season, around 23 percent of all NBA players spent some time in the D-League.

Mike James, a 37-year-old point guard called up from the Legends, completed his second 10-day contract with the Mavericks on Monday and now has a guaranteed deal for the rest of the season. He is the sixth player the Legends have sent to the NBA in their three seasons.

It took commitment and hard work - two things Iverson lacked during much of his 14-year NBA career. I've always said and still believe that Iverson cheated us because his lack of work ethic prevented us from seeing the best he could have been.

I don't think Iverson has any intention of trying to get back to the NBA. He knows how much work that would take and has no intention of putting that in.

"Should God provide me another opportunity, I will give it my all," Iverson said. "To my fans, I love yall! Not a day goes by that I am not asked when am I coming back, we all must accept that my return is not up to just me."

That's disingenuous. Iverson should be a wily veteran who is still contributing in the NBA. The fact that he is not is due primarily to Allen Iverson.

The D-League gave Iverson a road back to the NBA, and he said no. He said no because he knows he doesn't have it in him to make it back.

That wouldn't fit the narrative.

If Iverson tried and failed in the D-League, everyone would finally know for sure that the reason he no longer is in the NBA is because he no longer can play in the NBA.

By not trying, he can still place some of the blame on someone else.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: philly.com/Smallwood

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