Allen Iverson: Fallen Star

With his NBA career over, his marriage in trouble, and rumors swirling about drinking and money problems, the greatest Sixer of his era finds himself playing minor-league basketball in Turkey and spending his nights at a T.G.I. Friday’s in Istanbul. Isn’t it, weirdly, exactly how we always thought it would end for Allen Iverson?


When the Sixers let Iverson go home last February, it was to sit down with Tawanna, to see if they could, somehow, get back on track. For Iverson, his marriage — maybe more than anything else — is paramount to his survival.

“I’d die for her,” he once said about Tawanna. “I’d die without her.”

Sitting up in the stands in Istanbul, Iverson tells me, “It’s 360 degrees better now,” and this is the effect he has, despite all his excesses, or maybe because of them: I really hope, for his sake, that it is better.

I ask him how Tawanna feels about making the move from Atlanta with five kids. (Messiah is well now.)

Iverson smiles ruefully. They are a work in progress.

, I’d gone for a long, winding walk. Far above a four-lane highway, a hard-sounding Turkish voice blared. I walked up the hill to the voice and found a mosque, the imam’s incantations broadcast from speakers.
I peered in an open door. Shoes were lined in a vestibule. I took mine off, and slipped to the entrance of the main room, where 15 men in robes knelt in a row and touched their foreheads to the floor, as the imam chanted and imprecated.

Suddenly, a cell phone rang. I panicked, reached down — but it wasn’t mine. A man in the middle of the row of worshippers got up, turned, came toward me, reached into his white robe, and answered his phone.

I went back out into the sun, laughing, and watched women go in their own separate entrance. One second I was taking a peek into the Ottoman Empire, the next — well, it’s a rapidly shifting world.

Does Allen Iverson have a prayer of making it here? People who know him in America, or think they do, seem to find the idea laughable. How do you go from practically living in casinos and drinking heavily to Istanbul?

“I’m not like I was when I was in Philly,” Iverson says, “when I was 21. I didn’t have five kids. I didn’t have the responsibilities I have now.”

His old teammate Eric Snow tells me he knows Iverson wants to get back to the NBA. But Iverson says no. He’s done that, had his career there. He’s in a new place now, a city and country that have embraced him. There are millions more fans out there, all over Europe, that he can play for. And that’s what he intends to do, because the truth is, Allen Iverson has nowhere else to go.

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