When I told my uncle that the topic for my upcoming column was “Why The Brooklyn Nets Should Offer Allen Iverson a Contract”, he was puzzled.
“Does he even still play?”
The answer, of course, is no.
The Answer has been out of the league for over two years and was last seen as a reserve for the lowly 76ers in the spring of 2010. In his comeback stint with Philadelphia, Iverson showed glimpses of former brilliance but, more often, seemed to be ready to sail off towards the horizon. It was later revealed that Iverson had endured a series of afflictions in his final season that distracted him from committing himself fully to the team. From his daughter’s diagnosis with a serious illness to issues in his marriage, Iverson was playing his last games in the NBA with much more on his mind than basketball. In October of 2011, Iverson admitted as much to Yahoo! Sports: ”I was dealing with the situation with my daughter and going through a divorce, and I wasn’t there mentally. In my career, those last couple years were so hard for me because I wasn’t there. Mentally, I wasn’t there.”
Two years later, Iverson believes he has put that tough chapter of his life behind him. After his hiatus, the near-37-year-old Iverson appears rested, refocused, and ready to cap off the end to his phenomenal career on a high note. Iverson told Lisa Salters of ESPN last month during the 76ers’ improbable playoff run that he had rediscovered his fire and love of the game, “I want to play so bad. Anywhere.” Iverson, who forced his way out of Memphis after refusing to accept non-starting roles, revealed he is now willing to fill any role for any team. “Obviously, they might have some issues thinking I don’t want to help a team in a certain capacity,” Iverson told Yahoo! “But that’s over with. All that was going on through an emotional time. It cost me to not play. I’m just willing to help any squad in any capacity.”
“I’m just willing to help any squad in any capacity.”
Hear that Brooklyn? An iconic superstar is available. Better yet, an iconic superstar who is willing to help sell jerseys and provide energy off the bench is available. What is there to lose?
Think about it: Nets’ GM Billy King has made a series of questionable moves in his tenure with the team that have put his job security on a short leash. From committing $35 Million for Travis Outlaw, to putting all of his eggs into Deron Williams’ basket, to trading away his upcoming lottery pick for the aging Gerald Wallace, King’s decision making has been suspect (at best) and he is under more pressure than ever to make the Nets winners immediately.
Unfortunately for King, the Nets are coming off a season in which they won only 22 games. Furthermore, King’s two best players, Williams and Wallace, have both expressed interest in testing the open market. It appears highly realistic that the Nets could be moving into Brooklyn without a single star player on their roster.
Enter Allen Iverson. While Iverson is not the superstar he once was, he still has the name recognition and star power to give Brooklyn fans something to look forward to as they enter their new era. Better yet, by adding Iverson to the team, the Nets would immediately upgrade their backcourt and give the team a recruiter to help lure Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace back.
As for why the move would be especially smart for Brooklyn, one would simply have to look at Billy King and Allen Iverson’s long history together. King was the General Manager for the 76ers for ten seasons and witnessed both the rise and fall of Iverson in Philadelphia. Under King, Iverson became one of the most popular players in the league and singlehandedly led a borderline “good” team to the NBA Finals. “I looked at Allen as a little brother, I want to say a son, maybe, but you want what’s best for them,” King told the New York Daily News last week.
King’s close relationship to Iverson could benefit them both. King needs a star player and Iverson needs a final opportunity on an NBA roster. Iverson’s would be grateful to King for the opportunity. If King needed Iverson to provide scoring in a starting role for the Nets, Iverson would listen. If King needed Iverson to provide energy and hustle off the bench for the Nets, Iverson would listen. If King needed Iverson to provide a smiling face for a billboard outside of the Barclays Center for the Nets… you get the gist.
Better yet, with the Nets move into Brooklyn and their transformation into Jay-Z’s black-and-white logo, the Nets have made a visible effort to represent the streets of Brooklyn. Who better to help the Nets represent the streets of Brooklyn on the court than the revolutionary guard who brought the streetball essence of his game to the NBA?
Signing Allen Iverson to a one year contract is one of the smartest moves the Nets can make this offseason. After all, Iverson was still a solid contributor for the 76ers in 2010. Despite playing with numerous distractions, Iverson averaged fourteen points along with four assists and three rebounds — all respectable totals for a guard. All the while, Iverson’s shooting percentages were on par with his career averages.
Iverson, at 37, is still a major upgrade to Deshawn Stevenson. Moreover, for his production and willingness to take a veteran’s minimum contract, Iverson is an extremely affordable and efficient option. Lastly and most importantly, Iverson would be a profitable investment for Nets as he would undoubtedly give the team more media exposure and better ticket sales.
Iverson’s hustle and effort on the floor have never been in question. No player in NBA history has taken as much of a pounding throughout his career as Iverson. Still, the 165-pound guard has been remarkably durable – only missing 146 regular season games over his fourteen year NBA career. As Brian Confer of Yahoo! Sports put it, “When you are the best player on your team and you don’t miss games even while writhing in pain, your teammates don’t miss games due to injury either. Some people say Allen tore teams apart, this tells me he brought them together.”
For a Nets team potentially entering Brooklyn without an identity, having a star player with a renewed love of the game can only help bring the team together. With the seat getting warmer for Billy King, signing his “little brother” to a contract might be a move he can’t afford to miss.
Jacob Eisenberg writes for The Fan Manifesto. He can be followed on Twitter @Eisenberg43. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.