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The Final(?) Answer…

Was there another possible ending for Allen Iverson? This strange season, in which he was selected to the allstar game, but left two teams in questionable circumstances, seems like the only way AI’s career could have concluded. There was never going to be a teary eyed press conference, a year-long farewell tour, or a royal send off deserving of perhaps the greatest “little” guard of all time.

Maybe this is premature, after all, nothing has been made official and Iverson might return next year… but after flaming out this season with Memphis and then leaving Philly this week, it seems as though the end of the road has finally come for the Answer. He failed to show teams this year that he could sublimate himself to a lesser role; that he could become a penultimate sixth man, or help a contender with limited minutes. Thus, the usual fade period for a player of Iverson’s stature will be a solitary, controversial year.

Perhaps the most polarizing figure in NBA history, Iverson was a truly phenomenal player. In his prime, there were few guys who could put points on the board like him, and nobody ever should question his heart. While practice might not have been his thing, Iverson brought it every night when he stepped on the hardwood. In 2001, Larry Brown built an Eastern Conference Champion that did only two things: defend and get the ball to Iverson. That’s it, that was the whole offense and it worked. It worked, because the little pinball machine that is Iverson, scored a third of their points every game. He was never a great shooter, but AI was a scorer in the purest sense of the word.

Yet, Iverson was also the poster child for the post-Jordan breed of player. Guys that the general public found a little too selfish, a little too tattooed, dare I say a little too black? Perhaps my favourite cover in Sports Illustrated history this picture of Iverson holding a couple dozen dead roses, wearing shorts that could serve as a parachute, a giant white gold cross, his trademark cornrows, and his tattoos . Perfectly shot, it captured the tension that existed between a mostly white fanbase and the perceived new breed of player that Iverson embodied.

If this is the end for AI, then for many he will be remembered as a selfish player, whose teams always improved upon his departure (a somewhat misleading stat). However, I will remember him as the littlest guy on the floor, bouncing between behemoths, slicing to the basket, and, as he was slammed to the ground, flipping the ball casually off the board for two… Before popping back up, defiantly ready to do it again.

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