Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated summed up very well what I think about Allen Iverson.
When I think back on all those great AI moments from his Philly days, are the memories selective? What about all the awed teammates left stranded (and open) on the wing, and the sidekicks he ran out of town and the fact that — oh, yeah — his was the Olympic team that finished with a bronze medal?
Maybe that 76ers run to the Finals in 2001 was more the masterwork of Larry Brown, a coach smart enough to minimize the liabilities of a 6-foot, ball-dominating two guard. After all, with Brown, AI’s Sixers averaged 45 wins in full seasons; without Brown, they averaged 34. And you can blame it on the supporting cast, but keep in mind that they didn’t get a chance to do much supporting: Iverson led the league in percentage of his team’s possessions used six times in a seven-year stretch. “There was a reason he got all the credit, and that’s because he scored most of the points,” says Eric Snow, AI’s backcourt mate in Philly. “But that team was much better than people gave us credit for. A lot of guys aren’t willing to make the sacrifices we made.”
Before he joined the Pistons, here are a few things I thought about AI:
- He’s a better on-ball defender than he gets credit for.
- Although he doesn’t choose to often, he’s a tremendous passer.
- If he wanted to be, he has the tools to be one of the league’s best pure point guards.
- He doesn’t always know the best way to do it, but deep down, he has an intense desire to win.
After seeing him up close this year, I don’t know if I should believe any of those. Maybe, at 33, he can’t do those things anymore. But maybe he never could.
When Joe Dumars first became the Pistons’ GM, he tried to trade for Iverson, but Matt Geiger used his no-trade clause to block the deal. I’d say everything worked out for Detroit, but I wonder what would have happened had the trade gone through?
Would Detroit have seen Iverson’s deficiencies sooner? Or was Iverson that much better then?
Iverson has always been a player I’ve admired from afar. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him on my team, but he was sure fun to watch.
Now, the only feeling is bitterness toward Iverson for destroying the Pistons.
So, was this a quick decline for Iverson or a revealing of what we should have realized all along?
I have no answer.