Last we heard, our dear friend Allen Iverson was negotiating a potential contract with Besiktas Cola Turka, an Istanbul-based team of the Turkish Basketball League. “Penalties” embedded in the contract were the reported hang-up between Iverson and Turka but something had to give for A.I. to play basketball in Europe next season, and give it did. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, Iverson has agreed to a two-year, $4 million deal that will put him in the TBL next season.
Iverson has fallen from grace in slow motion. As a once-heralded MVP and leader of an overachieving Philadelphia 76ers team that made it all the way to the 2001 NBA finals, Iverson was a household name. His crossover was ubiquitous. His reputation hardly sterling, but a needed component of his creation myth. Iverson changed the game and its culture with his style and his swagger, while many dared not question the effects of his inefficient scoring style on the teams he supposedly championed.
The rest, as they say, is history. Iverson wore out his welcome in Philly, wore out his welcome in Denver, wore out his welcome in Detroit, wore out a welcome he probably never should have had in Memphis, and returned to Philly only to split shortly thereafter. All the while, Iverson as basketball revolutionary faded into the background, and what that revolutionary stood for on the hardwood itself took center stage. You can represent Iverson’s game in any number of ways, but at this stage in his career, he’s less efficient than ever, even more flawed as a defender than he was in his gamble-happy glory days, and forever tied to his own self-conception. Iverson’s ego, his work ethic, and his selfishness are no longer drowned out by the volume of his high-scoring game. He might still be good for a few spins of the turnstile (a fitting turn of phrase given AI’s status as a ticket draw and a notorious defensive dupe), but NBA owners and managers clearly don’t see him as being worth the hassle.
He’s still worth some hassle to someone, though. Iverson had offers to play in Turkey and China, and ultimately decided on Besiktas. Spears reports that Iverson’s deal will have an opt-out clause after the coming season, should he look to make an NBA return or perhaps jump to another league, but his deal will have no mid-season escape clause should a better offer come along. Iverson will be playing in Turkey this season. It’s a strange landing spot for a distinctly American basketball icon, but this is where Iverson’s path, ever unpredictable, has taken him.