Farewell, A.I.

So last Friday Sports Illustrated’s website ran my latest column, a piece about Allen Iverson and his staggering lack of readiness for the real world.

Today, the Memphis Grizzlies dumped The Answer.

In the immediate aftermath of the column, I received some extremely heated letters. Who the f*** was I? What right did I have to slam Iverson? A.I. is The Man, and I’m some loser journalist who picks his nose, then eats the remnants.

Truth be told, however, I’ve always loved Allen Iverson. I love his grittiness. I love his heart. I love the way he drives through the lane and gets pounded time after time after time. I especially love the way he absolutely humiliated Michael Jordan with one of the deadliest cross-overs of all time (See Above Video). Yes, he never won a title, and his stays in Denver and Detroit and Memphis were pretty disastrous. But vintage Iverson—Philly Iverson—was as good as a little guard got. He was magnificent.

One more thing: Let’s not forget Iverson’s important place in hip-hop culture. What professional athlete was wearing cornrows before A.I.? He brought a sort of street-cred edginess to the game, one that enticed young fans while making David Stern and Co. squirm.

So instead of mocking Iverson, or wondering what all those people in Memphis was No. 3 jerseys are thinking right now, let’s take a moment to appreciate a wonderful player whose place in the Hall of Fame is certainly secure.

I meant everything I said in my column.

But I sure hope I’m wrong.

PS: For those who never read it, here’s a recap of my week with A.I.