Let’s see, what does he have to say?
“The days are not good for Allen Iverson. The one-time beacon of personal integrity, triumphal dysfunction, and “fuck the world” stylistic rights currently sits out in the cold. He’s hoping some team will look past his recent disappointments, figure several accelerated half-lives have made his legacy less radioactive, and give him a chance to make a roster like a blaxploitation Kevin Costner character. So perhaps now is not the time to launch an entirely new critique of AI.”
Right. Allen Iverson was a beacon of personal integrity, just as Richard Nixon was an advocate for pot-smoking hippies. Well, I’ll give this to you: if personal integrity is defined as being perfectly stubborn and obdurate, never giving in an inch to anyone about how it’s going to be with regard to any matter at all, Allen is a beacon of high altitude and candlepower. The only other people I know who can compete with Allen in that respect are infant children.
What’s left Iverson out in the cold is that his insistence on playing dysfunctional “fuck the world” basketball, and the toll he’s taken on his recent teams when he’s been on the court. Let’s take the case of Donald Sterling, for example. Donald is tempted to exploit (blaxploit? oh, FreeDarko!) the fact that Iverson is a god of two generations of NBA fans and sell some Clippers tickets. He’s considering pulling rank on Dunleavy and telling him to make it work. Dunleavy is about to shit his pants, but then he calls up George Karl and asks George to call Sterling and tell him about what Iverson did for the Nuggets. Sterling is later seen shuffling down the hallway clutching his belly, discomplected beneath his tan. Not a word of Iverson the Clipper is ever heard again.
“However, the rise of Twitter has me rethinking that foundation of Iverson’s NBA being: his authenticity. Allen Iverson, above all else, was his own man, did what he wanted, and forced the world to accept him on this own terms. This was where he picked up momentum as a hip-hop icon, which is to say, while others screamed “thug”, he simply brushed them off as ignorant or sheltered. There’s a tendency, even a need, to separate AI the world-historical figure from AI the athletic performer. In both cases, however, Iverson exemplified “realness”—perhaps to a pathological degree, but nonetheless in a way that informed the direction of the league and the players who came up idolizing him as much as Jordan.”
I don’t even know what most of this is supposed to mean, or what the fuck Twitter has to do with it, but the author is obviously vacillating on the question of whether or not “realness” can be a positive quality for an athlete in basketball. No shame in that; I don’t think “realness” has ever been of benefit to a player in any team sport. But aside from Marbury, who is up there with Dutch Daulton in the pantheon of walking joke burnout athletes, no one has ever been more grossly handicapped by authentic triumphal insistent “realness” (integrity) than Allen Iverson. Though the author is correct in his assertion that Allen “informed the direction of” a ton of egotistical and bizarre behavior, including that of the “New Jordan” himself, I don’t think we’ll ever see another player take it to Iverson’s level of constant defiance, complaint and spite, or make such a mess of things in service of this attitude.
“Hence, as much as we speak of the post-Jordan days, I myself had become accustomed to the “post-Iverson” age. In this (gulp) dialectic, there seemed to always be a hard edge, or uncompromising bluntness, to be reckoned with. There was Jordan’s universal appeal, met head-on by Iverson’s populist bluster. The players spat out of this maelstrom were some combination of the two; Allen Iverson came to symbolize a mish-mash of unapologetic ghetto roots, “wrong way” ball, not taking shit from no one, and a wary intelligence that could often be its own worst enemy. Carmelo Anthony, post-Iverson because he was hood plus Magic Johnson’s effervescent charm; Gilbert Arenas, idiosyncratic and disruptive as a player and person, but writing his own script with all the whimsy of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Jordan was a sales pitch, Iverson a doctrine. Except that, at the risk of offending a bunch of people, Iverson’s persona was itself a posture. This may sound pedestrian, or simplistic, but at what point did we decide that Iverson (or Tupac) wasn’t, to some degree, faking it, putting it on, selling us a bill of goods based around a very deliberate refusal to play by the rules? AI was certainly faced with difficult circumstances, and had to make tough decisions about what path to follow. And yet over the long haul, it became as opaque a guise as Jordan’s Sphinx-like mask. They may have been polar opposites, but their inflexibility and predictability ultimately made them two sides of the same coin.”
The reason we are in “Post-Iverson” days already while he is still in his early 30s is that Allen’s preference for shooting contested fallaway jumpers instead of continuing the offense has finally peaked off the charts and rendered him mostly useless in his past few years of play. The Iverson Doctrine was “Don’t believe that anyone other than yourself can be trusted to help you accomplish your goals.” This is a doctrine that makes for shitty basketball. The difference between Iverson and Tupac is that Iverson was successful for a long time in spite of his flippant grudge against everybody but himself, and Tupac might be alive and well and still dancing around in a bathrobe if he hadn’t styled himself an exaggerated sociopathic villain, but he’d have never been rich, famous and beloved like Iverson.
It looks like the author is making abstract gestures at the idea that Iverson’s chosen persona of antipathy toward his teams and “the rules” detracted from his effectiveness and spoiled his relationships with teammates, coaches and fans. I agree. Though most of us Philadelphia fans used to forgive him the next time he’d score 30 points. And of course he wasn’t all bad, either, but this is an essay about why he’s out of a job.
“Should we bemoan the fact that, in the age of Twitter, authenticity is no longer about any iteration of “the struggle,” or truce between the two sides, but the possibility that individual athletes be both accessible and undeniably themselves? The stakes may have been lowered, and yet better a feed like Rudy Gay’s inform our sense of athlete “realness” than AI’s on-message scowl. Relaxation on its own is empty, taking a stand indefinitely is its own kind of blandness.
Incidentally, anyone who’s seen Iverson in the locker room, or otherwise with his guard down, knows that dude would be a monster on Twitter.”
I don’t know what his point is about Twitter and as far as I am concerned it has as much to do with Iverson’s fallen state as does the price of Indonesian bananas, but I guess he might be saying that these days, any echo of the defiant “struggle” of Iverson and Tupac now has to be muted by NBA star players, in service of Twitter accessibility. Well, he shoulda said so, if that’s what he meant.
And no, we shouldn’t bemoan that, because the fact that maniacal gunner gangstas don’t carry teams to championships has been set in stone, now, and teams that pass and cut and shoot open shots keep winning the Finals. Let’s be grateful. Let’s hope LeBron isn’t going to try to bring it back, fuck the world and do it his own way, or whatever, though that would be very entertaining to watch.