Fifteen different players have taken the floor this season in a Sixers uniform, and nine have started. But when the Celtics take the floor in Philly for the last time this season on Friday night, we know one face they won’t see: Allen Iverson‘s.
For the second time in four years, Iverson and the 76ers have parted ways, deciding perhaps once and for all this time that they can’t make this work. After becoming an icon over the course of a decade in Philadelphia, A.I. has now tried and failed to catch on with four different teams, including another stint in the city of Brotherly Love.
He went to Denver, but couldn’t get that team over the hump, twice failing to get them past the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets shipped him out to Detroit, with the Pistons giving up Chauncey Billups in what was little more than a salary dump. There, the complaining started; he told the Pistons he would rather retire than move to the bench.
Then he signed with Memphis this past summer. Same problem, same complaints, same tumultuous exit.
There was hope that with Iverson moving back to Philadelphia, he’d be able to get his career back on track and rehabilitate himself as a public figure and as a basketball player. This was the city that had nurtured him and made him into a megastar, an MVP, an umpteen-time All-Star. This was the city where he became The Answer, no matter what the question.
But Philly didn’t work out either. This week, Iverson cited family reasons as the impetus behind leaving the Sixers for the remainder of this season. The initial word was that his daughter, just four years old, was battling an undisclosed illness. Now we’re hearing of another wrinkle — the impending divorce between Iverson and his wife, Tawanna.
The Sixers’ front office spun this as a matter of Iverson loving and caring for his teammates and the organization — so much so that he didn’t want to burden them with the distraction of his personal troubles. It’s a nice idea, and the Sixers’ hearts are in the right place. But it’s so not Iverson.
The old A.I. loved being the center of attention. He craved it. He’d kill for it. He wanted the spotlight on him at all times — that’s why he demanded all those minutes, took all those shots, raked in all that money. He wanted to be the man. He wanted to be the undisputed alpha dog in town.
This is the new Iverson, and it’s sad to see. He’s shrinking away from the attention and fading away from his life in the NBA.
We don’t know if he’ll ever be back.
Over the past few years, he hasn’t exactly been the most employable guy. He’s been a nuisance, an egomaniac and, at times, a bit of a flake. And at 34, he’s not the player he once was.
For whatever complaints anyone had about Allen Iverson during his time in Philly, one thing you could never doubt was his dedication. He played every single game like it was his last. He never took a night off — he never even took a minute off. He gave everything he had to the game of basketball, and while his motives might have been suspect from time to time, he was the most dedicated player in the game.
That was then, and this is now. In 2010, you can’t be too sure about Allen Iverson. The desire doesn’t seem to be there anymore; instead, Iverson looks burned out and confused about his future.
Will A.I. ever play again? Quite possibly not. The Answer is still out there, but no one’s asking the question.