Who is Allen Iverson?

It was inevitable, really.

The writing was on the wall as soon as he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies on September 10th.

On Saturday, it became official: Allen Iverson has been granted a leave of absence from the Grizzlies, and sources close to the situation are telling reporters that it doesn't look like he'll be rejoining the team any time soon, if at all.

Officially, the team is charting up the hiatus as a "personal issue" that Iverson is addressing at his offseason home in Atlanta.

Those of us with any common sense can see that the "personal issue" in question here is a bruised ego.

Iverson missed all of the preseason and the first three regular season games with a hamstring injury. He made his return to action on Monday, coming off the bench and scoring 11 points in Memphis' overtime loss to the Kings in Sacramento.

He complained about his role after the game.

He came off the bench again on Wednesday and scored 18 in a losing effort in Golden State to the Warriors.

He complained about his role after the game.

Iverson came off the bench and scored 8 points in 21 minutes in a blowout loss to the Clippers on Friday.

He complained about his role after the game.

On Saturday, Iverson was granted a leave of absence from the team, and his days with the Grizzlies are likely done. His line for season: three games played, $3.5 million in salary, three postgame press conferences questioning his role.

Many people, including myself, thought that the signing of Allen Iverson was nothing more than a ploy to sell more tickets in Memphis. Iverson never played a home game for the Grizzlies.

Now, just two weeks into his 14th NBA season, Allen Iverson's career looks to be finished.

And after a decade and a half of having Allen Iverson play a prominent role in the world of basketball, the question still remains: who is Allen Iverson?

Ask that question to five different basketball fans and you'll get five different answers.

To some, he's the greatest little man to ever play the game. He's a player that defied the odds. In a generation that saw players get bigger and stronger than ever before, he came in at six-feet-tall on stilts, and weighed 150 only when walking from the shower to the towel rack, yet he was better than players literally twice his size.

To others, he's the best pure scoring point guard to ever play. A guy that you knew that as long as the ball was in his hands it was possible for his team to score on any given possession.

Some would say he was everything wrong with the NBA for a long time: he was a score-first guard who made sure he got his 30 points per game and hoped that everything else fell into place.

He was the player that ushered in an era of point guards who grew up thinking it was okay to score every trip down the floor. It's because of Iverson the league went through a drought of true point guards entering the draft because everyone wanted to be Allen Iverson instead of John Stockton, those people would argue.

Some will tell you that he was the reason for the dress code. He set the trend of wearing baggy jeans and hats at press conferences, an outfit that later became banned by the NBA during postgame interviews.

The what-have-you-done-for-me lately fans will remember Iverson as the egotistical, me-above-the-team player that was sent home by three different teams in four years because he was a cancer to the team.

But most of all, people will tell you that he's the guy that didn't like to practice.

So, if Allen Iverson has played his last NBA game, and it certainly looks as if he has, which Allen Iverson will you chose to remember?

That's the real question here. How do you want to remember A.I.?

Because, you see, Allen Iverson is all of those things that I just listed.

He was arguably the best little man to ever play the game. He was the best scoring point guard to ever play. He did usher in an era of shoot-first six-footers. He was the person that everyone immediately pictured when the league announced a dress code. He was the malcontent that was sent home by three different teams.

For better or for worse, that's who Allen Iverson is.

It's all about how you want to view him.

Over the past year or so, Iverson have given us little to no reason to want to remember him for all of the great things he's accomplished. He's morphed into a sideshow; an easy target. He's kind of player you want to root against, now more than ever.

Iverson had a chance to end his career in a lot of different ways. There's no denying the fact that he can still play. Sure, he may not be the guy that can drop 30 without breaking a sweat anymore, but he can still score.

Look around the league. How many contending teams could use a spark off the bench like Iverson? If Allen Iverson didn't come with so much baggage, teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, and Cavs wouldn't have been beating down Iverson's door looking for a sixth man this summer?

Instead, all Iverson could generate was a mid-level deal from one of the least successful franchises in all of sports. All because he wasn't willing to accept the fact that he's not the player he once was.

Iverson said this week to look back at his career and you'll see that he's never come off the bench before, and he doesn't want to start now.

That's a real shame. If Iverson's pride would have allowed him to be a sixth man, he could have been the "X" factor for some team this spring. He could have been the guy that came off the bench and sparked a 20-5 run to start the second quarter of an NBA Finals game.

He could have been the guy that locked up in an epic fourth quarter shootout with another shooting guard in the playoffs.

He could have been the old veteran celebrating on the podium at the presentation of the Larry O'Brien Trophy telling Stuart Scott, "You have no idea how this feels" and everyone would have loved him for it.

Instead, he's the guy that got sent home by the Grizzlies after two weeks and never played again.

Allen Iverson had the opportunity to write a great ending to one of the most compelling stories the NBA has every told, but his pride got in the way.

Now his story has no ending. He's not riding off into the sunset with a ring like David Robinson, or leaving it all on the floor year after year only to come up short like Stockton and Karl Malone.

He's at his offseason home in Atlanta, dealing with a "personal issue."

For better or worse, that's who Allen Iverson is.

Scott Shepherd writes about the NBA every Monday for Sports Central. His blog, Diary of an NBA Junkie, is updated several times a week.

Comments and Conversation

November 9, 2009

michael calhoun:

it is obvious from your cmmentary you are a hater, AI isa coming back cause he told me so he is my cousin we got family that he wants to help out right now so fall back. he was not the only player to dress down on postgame interviews probally the most known but not the only. fall back. he was not sent home he took a leave of absence. do you have a family? well if not they come first and he will be back this yr and next for the 15yr not many players cna play 15yrs he defied the odds and u can look for more bad press for my cousin, FALL BACK CHUMP!

November 9, 2009

Ken Hovsepian:

Iverson is best described as “self-centered, I don’t have to practice, I don’t have to follow any dress code because I am A.I. Can you say CANCER?

November 9, 2009


AI, is both good and bad. The thing that has made him great, has made him a cancer. The attitude/mentality that drove him to score 30 a game, is the same mentality that makes him unwilling to come off the bench or play any role other than leading man.

November 10, 2009


I think allen is a great player and a great person, and like he said nobody would be saying anything about coming off the bench if it wasn’t because the insident in detroit. All I have to say if memphis wants to win give the ball to AI cause obviously gay, mayo, and the rest of those clowns ain’t doing it…

November 10, 2009


Idc wat no1 say iverson is the man n always willl be memphis sucks n want him sit the bench when there starting point guard is ass

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