Friday, December 15, 2006
Updated: December 28, 4:33 PM ET
By Scoop Jackson
"Yeah, there's going to be other stuff, the off-the-court antics and the trouble, but that's a footnote."
-- former Sixers owner Pat Croce
We have now reached the "why" point. The bigger-picture moment. The footnote.
Why is it taking so long? Why are we still talking about Allen Iverson not being traded?
It has been a week. Seven days with no end in sight.
Or has it been longer?
Do we add the previous four years to this week to emphasize the point?
That is the question that we need to be asking -- of general managers around the League, team owners and coaches, but also to ourselves.
Why hasn't a trade for Iverson taken place? Why is he still in Philly? Not playing. Locker empty. Why isn't he in another team's uniform, in another team's arena, on the court, balling? Why does an ultraluxe superstar in the NBA, a sports icon, a global phenomenon, not have any takers? Not just after a week, but after four years of the Sixers trying to move him.
Why are Iverson's services not being embraced? By anyone.
And even when the trade finally does happen (and it most likely will within the next week), we still need to ask the one-word question: Why? Why it took so long? Why a player of Iverson's caliber, ability, execution and talent -- a guaranteed first-ballot, no-questions-asked, future Hall of Famer, the current NBA leader in scoring (and minutes per game, second in steals) -- has been sitting at home for more than a week, basically banned from playing ball, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for his representative Leon Rose to tell him where his future will take place?
Are there that many things to think about? Are there that many decisions inside that ultimate decision that have to be made to Howie Mandel this thing? Are Sixers owner Ed Snider and GM Billy King asking for something that is so unreasonable in return that teams are finding it an insult to deal with them? (Word is they asked Charlotte for Raymond Felton, Sean May and Adam Morrison, for which Iverson killed the deal because he would have been worse off than he is in Philly.)
Either there is something about Iverson that we (the public) are severely naive about or King and Snider are a worse combination than Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss back when they decided to trade Shaq.
Personally, I think it's more the former than the latter.
I think it's time for us to all face the reality that there are issues people have with Iverson that are non-basketball-related but for the first time are affecting his ability to play basketball. And for the first time, it's not public or media-driven perception, it's internal. It's in the minds of those who have the power to allow him to play. And their minds are almost impossible to change.
Ask yourself the question: Would it take Steve Nash this long to be traded if he were on the block?
Your honest answer would be, No. Now the question you must ask yourself is "Why?"
Why Nash and not Iverson?
Basically, they are one and the same. Same amount of time in the League; both are two of the three best players (along with Kobe Bryant) out of arguably the best draft class ever (1996); both have (although different) brilliance that overrides the flaws in their games; both of their bodies have taken about the same amount of beating over the years; one is ranked 11th and the other 13th on John Hollinger's PER system; they are comparable in height, weight, position and responsibility when on the court. One player has the label of being able to make those around him better but has never taken a team to the NBA Finals, the other a label of being selfish but has taken a CBA squad to the Finals.
One has one MVP, the other two.
And before anyone goes there, the analogy is not necessary based on color (although I'd be a hypocrite to say that this has nothing to do with color). I could pose the same question about Gilbert Arenas or Kevin Garnett. Carmelo Anthony, for that matter. But even that's not it. The question of "Why?" with AI is not a question of him being black, but the type of black person he is.
He ain't D-Wade. He ain't Michael Jordan, LeBron, Tiki Barber, Albert Pujols, Arthur Ashe or Tiger Woods.
His Cablinasian is that of Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Ray Lewis, Jeremy Shockey and Mike Tyson
with something extra. With something none of them ever had or ever will have: his personality, his existence, his way of life, his means of survival, his being. And that extra has everything to do with who he is as a person. And that extra is what most of the NBA teams are afraid of.
Years ago, 1997, Slam did a cover story on AI called "Who's Afraid Of Allen Iverson?" Almost 10 years later, the question has found an answer: NBA GMs and owners.
They are afraid of his contract ($59 million over the next three years), his age (31 going on 40 in their minds), his play (a career 42 percent shooter and under 2-1 assist/turnover ratio), his lifestyle and habits (choose your own facts and adjectives). But mostly they're afraid that the words "mercurial" and "magnet for trouble" that have followed him throughout his career will follow him to their team.
And even with all that, we have to ask whether it should have taken this long?
Is the fear of Iverson so deeply rooted in things that have nothing to do with the game of basketball that what was initially a sweepstakes has become a rummage sale?
At the end of every day, every day Iverson remains untraded, a sociological issue in sports goes unanswered. Further reminding us that professional sports is not a game.
In the most recent words of Mother Moses, on the back page of her January 2007 issue of O, she says: "In order to make meaningful changes, you have to transform the way people think."
A change of venue for Iverson apparently will be based on a change of mind of someone else. And even though that GM and owner will never admit it that's what it took, the fact that it took this long to trade one of the most meaningful players in the history of the game is all the evidence most of us should need to prove them wrong.
Scoop Jackson is a national columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He appears regularly on "Quite Frankly" and other ESPN shows. He resides in Chicago. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.