The only Answer

Posted: May 24, 2012 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Sad. That’s how I felt Wednesday night while watching the latest installment of a compelling mini-series called The NBA Playoffs. And it wasn’t because the Philadelphia 76ers, a rare mix of young, athletic and painful to watch, beat (or, rather, were less bad than) the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No, the emotional part came prior to tipoff when a slim 36-year-old sporting a replica Lou Williams Sixers jersey, a backwards hat and more than one neck tattoo presented the game ball.

That’s Allen Iverson? That’s Allen Iverson – A.I., the Answer.

Shortly thereafter, he did an interview with Lisa Salters, expressing his gratitude to the Philly fans for the warm welcome and refusing to use the word “retired” to describe the state of his basketball career. That was likely a fraction of what he was feeling, the part safe for him to expose to the public.

TV has owned a replica of this Iverson jersey for 16 years. Old-school, yo.

Iverson is nothing if not complex – the purported immaculate conception, the racially charged fight that resulted in jail time, infamously talkin’ bout practice despite going to and through the wall during games. Without that, he’d just be a talented trendsetter, among the first in the league to rock corn rows, doo-rags and abundant ink.

I was drawn to him, much in the same way that I dig music and movies that are diametric to my life. Iverson looked so short and slight on the court yet nobody was tougher. In fact, I probably grimaced more in watching him get thrown to the floor time and again more than he did in actually being thrown to the floor. He seemed too proud to admit feeling pain, which Johnny Cash claimed is the only thing that’s real.

Iverson was skilled and dynamic and, yes, oozed street cred. I bought in, purchasing – among other items – his Georgetown jersey during a family trip to Washington, D.C. That was 1996. I was in high school in central North Dakota and Iverson was in college. The jersey is still in my dresser and still in wearable condition, somehow outlasting his NBA career.

It’s sad, never more so than right now. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are also 36 and playing key roles on contending teams, having altered their games in ways that will extend their Hall of Fame careers.

Iverson couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do that. He didn’t like coming off the bench and he wasn’t an easy teammate. The will and determination that made him, at all of 6-feet and 165 pounds, a four-time scoring champ also hastened his departure from the NBA. The last two-plus years have been marked by personal problems, injuries and awkward attempts to play overseas. He’s been so far off the radar it’s as if none of that really happened.

And then Wednesday he popped up again, front and center at the only NBA game of the night, receiving applause from fans and sincere dap from players before being ushered off the floor and into the stands.

Regret may have finally become a part of his compelling story.

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