How the mighty have fallen. News came this week that Allen Iverson is contemplating a move to the Chinese Basketball Association. He would join fellow has been Stephon Marbury. All they would need would be fifty more washed up NBA stars and they might have themselves a league.
Why would an aging star that is bound for the hall of fame decide to go to a far lesser locale instead of hanging up his sneakers for good? Then again, why wouldn't he?
I have grappled with the notion of A.I. playing in China long and hard and have come to the realization that there are very good reasons he should play in China, as well as others that would make it ludicrous for him to do so.
He is a star. At least he was. It may be cliche but it is not without truth to say that aging superstars find it very hard to let go of their top playing days. A move to China could give Iverson the satisfaction of being a superstar. The fact that he would once again be adored may outweigh the fact that he would be in a far away land. His basketball acumen would be tested away from any real competition. He could then relive his glory days. For someone that has been at the very pinnacle of the sport it may be more attractive than warming the bench on a less than stellar NBA team.
He will create distance between himself and the NBA. If Allen Iverson has anything more in the tank he needs to prove it beyond these borders. His situation is proof that he has just about exhausted the patience of general mangers and owners. A year or two abroad with great results will do well for him to be accepted back into the NBA. The 35-year old better shape up soon. His legs will not take more than a couple years.
Money. The second reason behind love for anyone that plays the game. Stephon Marbury, only two years younger than Iverson, has already played a year in China and negotiated a three-year deal. Further than that, Shanxi Zhongyu, the team he plays for, will co-market Marbury’s shoe. Iverson can expect the same. Money and playing time not available to him in the states will be in abundance in China.
The competition is just right. Marbury, by all accounts, was an empty jersey his last year in Boston. He averaged only 18 minutes a game and scored close to four points a game. In his first year in China, he raised that to a staggering 22.9 points a game. He was also granted a bid to the All-Star game.
The 22 points a game are on par with Marbury’s best years. The Chinese competition is just soft enough to put a little spring into an older NBA all-star’s step.
He could ruin his legacy. Allen Iverson was one of the most prolific scorers the NBA has ever seen. This jaunt to the NBA equivalent of double-A could tarnish that image. Imagine if Alex Rodriguez left MLB baseball to play in Japan. There would be no end to the talk of him petering out with a whimper.
Look at the flack that Michael Jordan received at the end of his career for not hanging it up, and he only went to Washington to play.
It is not Europe. I mean this in a number of ways that are not geographical. For starters it does not have the infrastructure that European leagues have. It is a relatively new undertaking, starting in 1995, whereas leagues in Europe are more entrenched in the culture (Lega A Italy started in 1920, Liga ACB Spain started in 1956, et. al).
Also, the CBA is finding itself forced to institute a salary cap as unchecked spending has invoked fears in the leagues supporters.
He will be out of the press. You will no longer hear funny jibes from Iverson about “practice” or how he is not committed to his team. He will in a sense disappear from the national spotlight. Stephon Marbury has been gone for only one year and I can barely remember what egotistical whining looks like.
He will wish he hadn't. Especially come January when a contending team goes looking for a back up or even a starter to take the place of their recently fallen guard. It happens every year and it will happen again this year. That may be the one last shot Iverson has to make a difference in the NBA and he will be out in China throwing up thirty a game against guys who wouldn't make the WNBA cut.
It comes down to what is important in life: money or prestige. Iverson can hang it up today and go down as a malcontent, but a malcontent that could shoot the lights out. If he plays in China he risks being ever known as the NBA version of Willie Mays in a Met jersey. The choice is his and I can’t wait to lambaste him for whichever one he chooses.