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Allen Iverson to play in Turkey…a sad fall from grace

Today ESPN reports that Allen Iverson is going to sign with a team in Turkey after no NBA teams have expressed interest in him. While at the same time older players Jerry Stackhouse and Juwan Howard have found teams still willing to sign them.  It’s sad that such a talented and beloved athlete could allow himself fall so far. He has already accomplished alot in the NBA, more so than many has beens but with his talent he could have been amongst one of the greatest.

Before The Neptunes and  Missy & Timbaland made the 757 a proud place to live, and before Hampton Roads became known as a breeding ground for athletes, there was Allen Iverson. There have been a few notable athletes from the area before him like Alonzo Mourning, Sweatpea Whitaker, and Bruce Smith but none have really represented their hometown like Allen Iverson. Iverson would actually come back to Hampton and Newport News during the offseason and often be spotted around the city.

Growing up in Newport News, VA I would often hear tales of Iverson AKA Bubbachuck. One of the most told stories was while still playing at Bethel High School Iverson took off from almost the freethrow line and dunked a missed freethrow. His dunks were talked about like he was Vince Carter.  Others talked about his football days and how he could’ve been a great QB. What really made him known wasn’t on a court or field it was a brawl in a bowling alley that eventually led him to jail. The governor at the time let him out of jail so he could go on an play basketball at Georgetown and eventually make millions in the NBA.

Throughout his career since the bowling alley brawl Iverson has been labeled as a thug and street kid who always hung around the wrong crowd. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s when “gangsta” and street culture was hip, Iversons popularity was sky high. This bad boy image resonated with fans because he produced crazy league leading numbers but had a “FUCK YOU!” street attitude. He was more than just a good baller, he was a cultural icon. His style of playground basketball was a big reason streetball and And1 became so popular. As a young wannabe baller I always tried to pull of this move of his but I could never do it as nice. I think the extra baggy clothes helped make the crossover look cooler.

When I was in 8th grade Allen Iversons 1st Shoe The Question was the hottest shoe out. In the Hampton Roads area it was more popular than any Air Jordans at the time. People have never been so crazy over a pair of Reeboks since The Pumps.  Luckily I was able to get a pair at Sports Authority and I loved those shoes.  If you lived in Hampton Roads you didn’t call them Questions or Iversons you simply referred to them as “Chucks.” In Newport News if  you mentioned you got the new Chucks people knew you were talking about Iverson shoes and not Converses.

My one story about Iverson was when I was about 17 and attending Hampton University for a NASA sponsored summer program. Some friends and I were coming back from a movie and noticed a LONG line of luxury cars led by Iversons Bently headed to HU’s convocation center. So in my 1985 2 Door BMW I followed the very last car in line but was quickly stopped as soon as we hit the gate.  I guess a 15 year old BMW stuffed with 5 guys wasn’t really luxurious enough to fool the gate keepers. So I paid $5 for parking and when we got to the front of the convocation center there was Allen Iverson with Magic Johnson, Sweatpea Whitaker, and Kadeem Hardison aka Dwayne Wayne from A Different World. I thought it was amazing that NBA legend Magic Johnson would come to Virginia for Iverson. In person Magic looks HUGE compared to normal people. The event was for only 21 and up so we had to leave.

If you follow basketball then you know his fall from grace the past 5 years. Even though he hasn’t been playing at an MVP level, he has always remained a popular player. He was voted to the allstar game EVERY year this past decade. He was voted a starter last season even though he barely played half the season. What has always held him back from being a great player is work ethic and playing with a team. His “practice” bit will forever haunt him and epitomize his career. He never transitioned from young sensational talent to a talented veteran team leader, like Kobe did post Shaq and Garnett did with the Celtics. Had he combined relentless work ethic with his freakish talent he could’ve been hands down the best. He was a 6ft(rumored to be shorter) 4 time scoring champion. It’s scary to think he could’ve been even better.

I believe his story can be a lesson to anyone. Natural talent alone cannot bring life long success. When I was younger I used to wish I was a genius kid so I could ace every test without studying and finish homework in 10 mins. Fast foward to today most of the successful people I have met or read about have reached that point by sheer hard work, good timing, and a little bit of luck. Talent and skill was just something they acquired along the path of hard work. Iversons awesome individual talent brought him many trophies and points but it never achieved lifetime respect or a championship ring associated with practice and hard work.

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