The random timing of Allen Iverson’s retirement announcement really underscores his precipitous fall from the A-List doesn’t it? He went from top five to not mentioned at all in a heartbeat. Those last couple of years in Denver and Detroit ended poorly and had the unfortunate effect of resetting his narrative. He still has that “People’s Champion” mantle, and that’s likely to never change. A.I. is still one of the most beloved pro athletes in the world, as evidenced by the reaction to a farewell announcement from a guy who hasn’t actually played in the NBA since 2010.
The way he went out though — petulant and all — soured some people who used to ride hard for A.I. Your man was really having some second childhood moments, not seeming to grasp the totality of the situation. The weaknesses in his game (running an offense, shot selection, man-to-man D, especially) were harder for coaches and fans to tolerate, now that his supernatural abilities were being taken away bit by bit by Father Time. I’m not saying he should have came off some scrub team’s bench; I'm just saying the teams that didn’t want him around had legit reasons.
That’s something that I, as a lifelong Sixers fan, even understood. Obviously, I was a big Iverson guy and appreciated all the grit and talent he brought to those late ‘90s and early ‘00s squads. To this day I can’t look at Tyronn Lue and not think about him getting stepped over in the ’01 Finals. Looking at him as a player, Iverson's rags to riches origin tale was inspiring. Looking at him as a man though, especially now, it’s different. I won’t get into the specifics about his money and family situation because, honestly, that’s a different column for a different person to write. That said, I can’t say I haven’t noticed it and thought, “when is he gonna stop playing himself?”
As he’s aged, so has his fan base and for most of us trying to negotiate a living in this hellified world, Iverson is somebody who doesn’t necessarily qualify as being respect-worthy. His behavior seems off-putting and even corny now, when once it was looked at as defiant and proud. As you grow and mature, you see things differently, that’s just the science of life. Iverson truebloods may disagree based off of idolized allegiance, but, the truth is, his legacy off the court is problematic.
None of this impacts how I feel about him as a player though, and so I can’t really beef with whatever decision-making process took place that motivated him to announce his retirement now. The randomness of it, when you consider how things have turned out for him, sorta fits I suppose. Which is unfortunate, but acceptable, because, at the end of the day, it’s his life. So, A.I. Forever…or something like that.