Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For The Defense

Simmons gets Iverson right:

To Iverson. The general consensus: His career as an effective player is over. How did we reach that conclusion? I have no idea. He averaged nearly 27 a game two seasons ago in Denver. Soon after opening night, Denver traded him to declining Detroit, where he was forced to play in a new system for a bad coach, and GM Joe Dumars soon made it clear Detroit traded for Iverson's expiring contract (and not for Iverson himself). When the situation inevitably self-combusted and the Pistons asked Iverson to come off the bench, he "coincidentally" came down with a back injury, and that was that. Meanwhile, Billups turned Denver around, enabling people to stupidly make the connection that Billups was wonderful and Iverson was the anti-Christ. Now everyone is afraid to sign him.

My first question: If we're writing off Iverson for the previous paragraph, why aren't we writing off Rasheed -- just as enigmatic, just as much of a volcano, just as much of a coach killer over the years -- when Sheed played worse than Iverson did last season?

My second question: Since when was it a good idea to bet against Iverson? Name another NBA player who overcame more obstacles over the years. For ESPN's "30 For 30" documentary series that premieres this fall, one of the first films is called "The Trial of Allen Iverson" (directed by Steve James of "Hoop Dreams" fame). I have only seen a rough cut. It has a chance to become one of the most important sports documentaries ever. Why? Because you will never think of Iverson the same way again. You will like him. You will feel bad for him. You will connect with him. You will admire him in a way you never imagined. After witnessing what he endured legally and racially -- how unfair it was, how un-American it was -- and marveling at the dignity he showed as he put his life back together afterward, I promise, you will never bet against this guy.

A few weeks ago, Iverson gave a speech in Virginia to promote his scholarship program. It was one of the best three minutes of the sports year. You probably didn't hear about it because the sports media and the blogosphere is more interested in talking about Brett Favre, Michael Vick, civil suits, how ESPN is the devil and everything else. Occasionally, some relevant stuff slips through the cracks. Such as this clip (below), for instance. Please watch it, then tell me why everyone is so willing to count out one of the best 30 basketball players of all time, as well as one of the greatest pure athletes in the history of sports, at the tender age of 34 when he has something to prove. We have not heard the last from him. Just wait.

I'll admit a bias towards AI, he's my favorite athlete of all time. And I know sometimes the Sports Guy is a little much. But he's right on about AI as a person, and this clip speaks to why I admire Iverson.