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?

 

I kid him about going to Friday’s in Istanbul, though he doesn’t seem to see it as teasing:

“Man, listen,” he says. “I didn’t know that the Philly cheesesteak wrap was that good when I was in Philly. I tried them when I got out here and every day since then. Every day since then!”

Iverson is startling, both handsome and almost cherubic. His eyes, the irises and pupils very nearly the same color, are vast. He laughs easily. What was for a decade a hopeful wisp of a mustache on a boy is now several days’ growth in full Fu Manchu mode. I’m talking to somebody I don’t recognize: a 35-year-old man, calm and measured. And he really is willing to talk.

“Everybody is making a big deal out of the money and making $2 million — what do people want me to do? Sit at home and just watch basketball, or play at the YMCA? I had to do what I had to do to continue playing basketball.”

Ah, yes, two big issues there. First, whether he is broke — a guy who has pocketed some $200 million in salary and endorsements over the past 15 years. It would emerge a week or so later that Iverson- is selling some of his collected memorabilia on eBay, and a lot of people are saying he’s gambled and partied and supported hangers-on to the point of going through all that cash. But Iverson laughs softly, high up in the Besiktas stands:

“I would be a damn fool to blow that much money and have five kids to take care of. One thing I do have, and I can say, is that I do have money. A lot.”

But on the matter of what he had to do to keep playing basketball, that’s a little more complicated. It really begins with Iverson washing out of Philly in late 2006. The previous spring, the team tried to trade him, but a deal fell through. Yet the specter of a trade could never be, for Iverson, merely about changing his city of employment. It would be about control, and loyalty, and love.

Which is why, in very short order, he verbally lashed coach Mo Cheeks at a practice and walked out, blew off a mandatory team function, and pulled himself from a game in Chicago complaining of back spasms.

The team told him to stay home. A week later, he was playing for Denver.

But something funny happened in Denver, in the soft mountain air. Iverson was ready to start over. He listened to coach George Karl (and still hoisted a lot of shots). He went to practice. He was out and about, but kept his late-night high jinks under wraps. He liked the schools in Denver for his kids. And he liked the possibility that he and fellow star Carmelo Anthony could make a run at a championship.

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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