Step Right Up to See the Iverson Sideshow in Memphis
And see the one-time scoring king. Good seats are still available.
Unfortunately, it's come down to that for Allen Iverson. He has become a sideshow.
In the end, the Memphis Grizzlies were the only team that really wanted them. It sure smells as if they're looking more for Iverson to sell tickets than to secure wins.
OK, I take that back. Maybe they're looking for Iverson to lead them to the magic 30-win mark in the twilight of his career.
Iverson has talked for years about desperately wanting to win a championship. Was that hollow talk?
Well, if Iverson, 34, had turned down a contending team in order to join the Grizzlies for one last attempt to score points in bushels, one might be able to call it that. But contenders weren't really interested in Iverson, so he never even had a chance to make that choice.
Iverson, a 6-foot guard who this summer became a free agent for the first time in his 13-year career, will sign a one-year deal for the Grizzlies worth about $3.5 million. Considering Iverson made $20.84 million last season, it's one of the biggest paycuts ever, but still looks more appealing than Latrell Sprewell once going from $14.6 million to zero.
"God chose Memphis as the place that I will continue my career,'' Iverson wrote on Twitter in breaking the story himself that he will head to the Grizzlies.
It's unclear if there is any special language in Iverson's contract about what he must do to sell tickets aside from put on shorts and high tops. Will he have to walk on stilts at halftime? Will he need to serve a stint on the dunking tank at the local Boy Scout jamboree? Will he show up at a game involving University of Memphis Tigers and wrestle a live tiger?
Iverson brought a lot upon this himself. Even though his skills were eroding, he balked when it came to coming off the bench last season with Detroit. At one point, he said he would rather retire than remain in the NBA as a reserve.
Iverson has tried to backtrack from those comments, but the damage was done. With chemistry so important and with teams not throwing around money in this economy, no contender was going to risk bringing in Iverson and perhaps having everything blow up.
Iverson, who has a career average of 27.1 points and has won four scoring crowns, should have heeded the example of another guy who won a bunch of scoring titles.
Big man Bob McAdoo, who led the NBA in scoring three straight times from 1973-76, was on the verge of his career being prematurely over when teams no longer wanted him as a ball-hogging scorer. He was waived at 29 and traded for a second-round pick at 30.
But McAdoo eventually was willing to become a role player, and helped lead the Lakers to titles in 1982 at the age of 30 and in 1985 at 33. McAdoo had averages of just 9.6 points and 10.5 points those seasons, but didn't mind since he was wearing rings on his fingers.
Can you imagine Iverson looking up at the stat sheet and seeing he had a 10-point scoring average? He wouldn't show up to practice for a week.
Iverson has been in denial about having lost a step, something very noticeable since he always has relied on his sports-car quickness. The reality is his game went downhill last season at the rate of an Acapulco cliff diver.
I covered Iverson when he was with the Denver Nuggets from December 2006 until November 2008. In 2007-08, his only full season with the Nuggets, Iverson looked as if he was defying age by averaging 26.4 points at 32.
But Iverson wasn't the same player in training camp last fall. He didn't look as quick, and was bogged down by injuries that wouldn't have bothered him much before.
The Nuggets noticed this, and he was traded three games into the season to Detroit in a deal that landed point guard Chauncey Billups. After what soon happened, it's surprising the SEC hasn't investigated Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien for insider trading.
Warkentien, who was named NBA Executive of the Year primarily for stealing Billups away from the Pistons, sold a stock that was very high and then it plummeted. It figured Iverson went to Detroit, where his stock soon was at the level of General Motor's.
Iverson last season averaged 17.5 points, including 17.4 for Detroit. In the 54 games he played for the Pistons, they went 22-32. Without Iverson, Detroit last season was 17-11.
So now Iverson takes his game to Memphis, where he one wonders if his presence will stunt the growth of talented young perimeter players Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo. Iverson will be skinny but comparisons to a fat Elvis still might be brought up.
Step right up. Step right up. After your visit to where "The King'' lived at Graceland, come see the one-time scoring king.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.