The Pistons traded for the most influential athlete of my generation on Monday, but all anyone seems to care about is the fact that he has an expiring contract. Imagine that. The most entertaining basketball player this side of Michael Jordan joins a championship contender, yet somehow LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are the focal points.
It’s sad. The summer of 2010 means more than Allen Iverson’s last chance at a title, even in such a proud basketball city. But fans in Detroit and across the country better slow down, because no matter what happens two summers from now, the league will never see another player quite like The Answer.
If you became a sports fan in the mid-late ‘90s, you’ve watched Iverson closer than any other athlete. You’ve criticized him for acting a fool. You’ve been amazed by his ability. You’ve realized that while Shaq might get hacked, AI gets decapitated. Yet he continues to get up. You respect him for that. ESPN’s Rick Reilly once wrote that if there was one player he’d pay twice the ticket price to watch, it would be Iverson, who really makes you think twice about cheering for Manny Ramirez. When he retires, you’ll remember his dismal rap career and his infamous practice rant, but not the way you’ll remember his crossover, a move that staggered more men than Mike Tyson ever did. Even gave MJ jelly legs once.
But for all AI has done on the court, his impact off the court might be what truly defines him. He’s been called a thug for always speaking his mind at a time when you can’t buy a quote from a great athlete – see LeBron, ARod and Tiger. Seemingly cut from the same cliché, those three will never reach people quite the way Iverson did. If you think about it, he and Eminem probably did more to bring two completely different cultures together than any celebrity in history. For awhile, his sneakers, jersey and crossover gave every sports fan something in common.
Iverson will make his Pistons debut tomorrow night in New Jersey, against another franchise already thinking well into the future. The difference is that while the Nets are hopeless, Detroit should be hopeful. They’re a better a team than they were a week ago. Even on his last legs, Iverson can change games.
Now we’ll see if he can win a title.
Must reads on Iverson:
The Impact of Iverson – Need For Sheed
The Iverson Effect: Net gains all around – True Blue Pistons
Allen Iverson, “The Answer”