Allen Iverson to Memphis

90198021JM001_IVERSON_PC

Just watched a bit of the footage of Allen Iverson’s introductory press conference in Memphis. Let me be one of the few to opine that Iverson is about to have a huge season. Huge.

I know … I know. At age 34, Iverson isn’t Iverson. Maybe that’s true. But the man is still fearless; is still awfully quick; is still one of the gutsiest small guards in NBA history. Most important, he has to be motivated, what with the rejection of seemingly every other franchise. Maybe I’m dumb—but I just have a feeling about this one.

It’s strange, Iverson. I’ve always had a soft spot for Jewelz, but I’m not sure why. Roughly nine years ago, when A.I. was in his prime with the 76ers, Sports Illustrated assigned me to profile the man. I flew to Philly, and was assured by the team’s media staff that Iverson would find time for me. On that first day, I entered the locker room, turned to face Iverson and heard him screaming curses into his cell phone. “Maybe now’s not the best time,” a media person said. The next night, the team had a game—no Iverson. They had another game the following night, and beforehand Iverson blew me off with a wave. The ensuing afternoon was practice, for which Iverson didn’t show up. Finally, the team was flying to Orlando to play the Magic. I went, too—hope sinking fast. Before the game the club’s owner, Pat Croce, asked if I’d had any success. “Ha,” I snarled. “None.” Afterward Billy King, the GM, said, “Jeff—follow me.” He led me back into the locker room, where Iverson was getting dressed and answering questions from the swarm. King whispered something into his ear, then returned to me and said, “Good news! A.I. will talk to you on the walk from the locker room to the bus.” This was hardly good news—but time was time. With his clothing on, Iverson shouted, “Where’s the S.I. guy?” I raised my hand, and we started strolling. We took, oh, 10 steps before a mob of autograph seekers attacked. Took another four steps before running into Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Bucs—both of who had much to say to Iverson. When that dialogue ended, we took four steps before—whooosh!—from the mist, ex-Magic gunner Dennis Scott appeared. He walked with us, me uttering nary a word. At long last, Scott disappeared. We were now five feet in front of the bus. The motor was running; all his teammates were seated and ready to go.

“So what do you want to know?” he asked.

I looked at the bus. I looked at Iverson. “Nothing,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”

And that was that.

•

Returned home, decided I’d write the piece on my horrible adventure with Allen Iverson. Even started typing it out, when the phone rang.

“Jeff?”

“Yeah?”

“Hey, this is Allen Iverson. You got time now?”

We spoke for 45 minutes.

He was fantastic.

8 thoughts on “Allen Iverson to Memphis”

  1. Solid column.

    Iverson is my favorite athlete of all time as he is naturally the ultimate underdog.
    Plus, he seems like one of the most self-aware, interesting, and genuine athletes out there.

    It goes without saying that he has his flaws.
    As Larry Brown said, Iverson never had a real coach when he was young to show him how to play correctly or buy into being a point guard.

    But people don’t give him any credit whatsoever. He is the scapegoat for everything.
    -Carmelo Anthony was too young/immature when he came to Denver (case in point: Carmelo got a DUI right before the first round series with the Lakers)
    -Detroit was a sinking ship that should have blown up their team after the 2006-2007 season. He saw right through that trade and realized he was taken on as an expiring contract rather than a team that legitimately wanted him.

    He was blamed for the mess in Detroit that was going to happen with or without him.
    He was also blamed for the problems in Denver and for when Denver made it to the Conference Finals without him (that is still a messed up chemistry team with JR Smith, and Kenyon Martin).

    The 2000-2001 season was unbelievable.
    David Halberstam wrote a column “In Admiration of Iverson” after Game 1 of the Lakers-76ers series.
    http://espn.go.com/page2/s/halberstam/010611.html

    Amazing game. I thought the refs were helping out the Lakers to make sure they’d sweep through the playoffs (they hadn’t lost a game going in the playoffs going in).
    The Lakers were going to win that series anyway.

    With that said, Memphis is the wrong place for him (just like Denver and Detroit were). I hate who his teammates are and I hate that franchise.
    I wish he’d play for a contender or a team that matters.
    I don’t know why Miami didn’t make a play for him. 1 year for 3 million? That is a bargain for someone that can legitimately put up 25-30 a night for at least one more season and is clearly out to prove himself (last time he did this was the 2000-2001 season)

  2. This is a horrible move for Memphis. He joins a team with Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo and Zach Randolph – 3 guys who never pass the ball and play a lot of minutes. Memphis had the fewest assists in the league last season.

    Iverson demands the ball and needs it to be effective. He scores off the dribble, he doesn’t have the ability to score off screens. Memphis will be running isolation plays throughout the game – that doesn’t work.

    He’s best when it’s his team, when he’s the go-to guy. He’s shown that with Philly, not so much with Denver and Detroit when he was part of a talented team. He needs to change his game – creating opportunities leading to assists – for Memphis to be effective.

    -> from the ESPN article
    Questions still remain about where Iverson fits in the Grizzlies’ plans after talking most of the summer about the need for scoring help off the bench. Iverson said in April he would rather retire than come off the bench and complained about his minutes while with the Pistons.

    Iverson said Thursday he wants to compete and be a coach on the floor.

    O.J. Mayo, who finished second to Chicago’s Derrick Rose in rookie of the year voting last season, starts at shooting guard. Memphis seems committed to Mike Conley at the point. There’s little doubt Iverson’s scoring talents should help a team which averaged only 93.9 points a game last season, next to last in the league.

  3. Its an interesting move to say the least….but don’t count A.I. out…he’s a proud man and he’s got something prove…love to hear good things about athletes I respect (re: AI calling Jeff back)

  4. He’s a past-his-prime gunner who will get you 25 points on 40% shooting, now a liability on both sides of the ball. He’s Nick Van Excel with a green light. Brown’s brilliance was displayed by taking a team as far as he did with Iverson as the focus.

    Memphis only wants him as a draw to put some fans in their seat – no team serious about winning considered taking him.

Leave a Reply