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?

 

In Philly, we ate it up. It was his defiance, and skill, and something even better: He was incapable of hiding, of not being himself. No other athlete is like that. He became infamous for a press conference where he defended himself for skipping and showing up late for practice (and, occasionally, hungover). It was a press conference in which he uttered the word “practice” 26 times dismissively, as in “We’re talking about practice,” and at the same time, with each of those 26 “practice”-es, his wide child’s eyes showed just how bewildered he was to be judged in a way he couldn’t quite fathom. In his world, practice didn’t count. But even in defiance he looked wounded. That, too, was riveting.

Other stories hit the press. He was stopped by cops in Virginia while riding in a car’s passenger seat with a registered gun on the floor and in possession of marijuana. He was sued by a guy who wouldn’t leave a VIP area in a lounge and was beaten up by Iverson’s bodyguard as Iverson impassively watched. (The guy won $260,000.) He got into a scrape with Tawanna in which he supposedly threw her, naked, out of their house in Gladwyne — then showed up at a cousin’s place in West Philly looking for her, allegedly with a gun in his pants. (The allegation fell apart in court.) All of this was momentarily shocking, but not surprising; the only issue was whether he’d tumble into a scrape he couldn’t roll out of. Whether he was a heart-on-his-sleeve man-child or a thug, either way, we couldn’t get enough of him.

He thrived on movement and chaos, on testing the limits. Close observers noticed that he seemed to play better the night after staying out until all hours or gambling huge amounts down at the Taj. A very mediocre Sixers team would ride him all the way to the finals in 2001, the tiniest guy with the biggest will.

His way: When the team was on the road, Iverson and his posse would move the mattresses off their beds to the floor in their hotel rooms. Because it helped them feel comfortable. Because that’s how they’d grown up.

ISTANBUL DOESN’T FEEL LIKE AN ANCIENT CITY, just that it’s 1974 in some ways: Laundry dries from apartment balconies; nobody wears seat belts; the men smoke; older women, especially, wear head scarves. It is pretty and hilly and crowded and very friendly. The men have a hard look, as if they just might pull out a sword and give you a hack, but a mere hello on the street stops all the locals — they smile, they’ll break out their English for a little chat. It is a city, and country, moving westward.

But Allen Iverson — at least, the one who once got so drunk at Bally’s that he pissed in a potted plant for all the gambling world to see, and who was lovingly written up in a Power 99 DJ’s memoir for having sex in the front seat of his Bentley while he drove — seems way too West.

Gambling is illegal in Turkey; Iverson would have to hop a plane for an hour to Bulgaria or Cyprus to throw dice. Worse, his team, Besiktas, often practices twice a day, there’s no break for Christmas, and the off-season escape back to America lasts all of two months. Training camp features early-morning team-spirit-building runs through the woods.

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  • Christopher

    You say Friday’s like you’re surprised. It’s no secret Friday’s & Houlihan’s were always his favorites in Philly.

  • Christopher

    Missed the page where Friday’s & Houlihan’s were mentioned. Sorry!

  • Steve

    He made $200 million and has to play in Turkey? That’s just idiocy – dumb- stupid – screwed up — and it appears he will be forever. I hope you never publish another Iverson story. Glad I would not let my child wear his jersey.

  • a

    No clue why you are bashing him for playing in Turkey. Turkey is a very nice and friendly city. The purpose of him playing is not cause he is broke but because he wants still to play and for a place that wants him. It’s a smart move on his part.

  • Kid

    This loser has gone from “The Answer” to “The Turkey”

  • Emre

    My american friends, even you don’t know the rest of the world, you still comment about it. Do you know that Turkey played for gold medal vs USA in the World Cup? If you do, you wouldn’t be sarcastic about this beautiful country or its basketball quality. I know that NBA is the best and we watch almost every game of Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur. But sadly, you don’t even know them, right? Iverson is playing in Istanbul cause we love this game and watching its talents. One thing about the author, you went to Istanbul, you don’t even know that Bosphorus is not a river, it’s a strait, like Bering. And Iverson is not the greatest thing for Turkish Basketball, it’s our NBA players and our second place in the world and europe cup. So please, make some research before writing something and don’t be ignorant about the rest of the world.

  • Emre

    My american friends, even you don’t know the rest of the world, you still comment about it. Do you know that Turkey played for gold medal vs USA in the World Cup? If you do, you wouldn’t be sarcastic about this beautiful country or its basketball quality. I know that NBA is the best and we watch almost every game of Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur. But sadly, you don’t even know them, right? Iverson is playing in Istanbul cause we love this game and watching its talents. One thing about the author, you went to Istanbul, you don’t even know that Bosphorus is not a river, it’s a strait, like Bering. And Iverson is not the greatest thing for Turkish Basketball, it’s our NBA players and our second place in the world and europe cup. So please, make some research before writing something and don’t be ignorant about the rest of the world.

  • ben

    a man from philly can get lost in istanbul easy, besiktas is level of a middling division college team, it competes in a league which are competitive in euroleauge, go kiss your selfself

  • Mike

    Dude, do your research. First the Turkish Beko League is anything but “middling”. Too, Turkish teams that play in the Euroleague obviously play in the Turkish league.

    So if the Turkish league is

  • Mike

    Dude, do your research. First the Turkish Beko League is anything but “middling”. Too, Turkish teams that play in the Euroleague obviously play in the Turkish league.

    So if the Turkish league is

  • Mike

    Dude, do your research. First the Turkish Beko League is anything but “middling”. Too, Turkish teams that play in the Euroleague obviously play in the Turkish league.

    So if the Turkish league is

  • Mike

    Dude, do your research. First the Turkish Beko League is anything but “middling”. Too, Turkish teams that play in the Euroleague obviously play in the Turkish league.

    So if the Turkish league is

  • Mike

    Dude, do your research. First the Turkish Beko League is anything but “middling”. Too, Turkish teams that play in the Euroleague obviously play in the Turkish league.

    So if the Turkish league is

  • Mike

    awful and the Euroleague so great why are two Turkish teams playing in both leagues? ( Efes and Fenerbahce)

    You need to do your homework dude. This was a piece written with good intentions yet lac