Ladies and gents, A.I. is off ... to Turkey!
Former All-Star Allen Iverson commits to Besiktas in bizarre Manhattan scene
NEW YORK -- A couple of minutes before 2 p.m. ET Friday, Allen Iverson walked into a Manhattan hotel ballroom, signed on the dotted line and agreed to play for a team halfway around the world.
"The Answer" is headed to Turkey, after agreeing to a two-year, $4 million contract to play for Besiktas in the Turkish Basketball League.
It was a bizarre scene that unfolded in the Versailles Room on the second floor of the St. Regis Hotel, one of the most well-known and luxurious hotels in New York City. Iverson -- an 11-time NBA All-Star and the No. 6 scorer in NBA history with a career average of 26.7 points per game -- was serenaded by Turkish music as he held up an unfamiliar black and white jersey with an advertisement for something called "Krispi" on the back.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Stephen CherninAllen Iverson signed a two-year, $4 million contract to play for Turkish club Besiktas on Friday.
Besiktas' owner, Yildirim Demiroren, opened the proceedings by making a few short remarks. "[Besiktas] is honored to include world star Allen Iverson into our club," Demiroren said via a translator. "I believe that Allen Iverson's sportsmanship will be a great example for the Turkish youth."
Then Iverson, clad in an all-black Yankees cap, black T-shirt and blue jeans, made an opening statement.
"I just think, um, this is a great opportunity for me, for my family," Iverson began. "I'm very excited about the possibility of joining this organization."
Truth be told, Iverson couldn't have looked less excited -- at least at the beginning of the news conference. But he perked up some as things went on and was refreshingly honest, admitting that he wishes he was still playing in the NBA. Iverson's manager, Gary Moore, has said that not a single NBA team contacted Iverson in the offseason.
"I was definitely surprised. I was really surprised," Iverson said. "But as late as it got, going into the beginning of the season, I felt that the opportunity probably wouldn't present itself. I talked to my manager and my agent, and asked them to see if anyone else would be interested in any other professional league so I could just continue to play basketball. I feel like I have a lot of basketball left in me."
Iverson, 35, played in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers last season but took a leave of absence from the team in February to be with his 4-year-old daughter, Messiah, who was dealing with an undisclosed illness. Then in early March, Iverson's wife, Tawanna, filed for divorce, and Iverson ultimately never returned to the team.
Multiple NBA sources also indicated at the time that Iverson was dealing with both alcohol and gambling issues.
Iverson said Friday that his family situation is much improved. "It's definitely resolved," Iverson said. "As far as my situation, me and my wife, it's a work in progress, but it is a lot better than it was. My daughter is 100 percent better. And if those situations weren't better at this time, there's no way I would have made the decision that I made to sign. That part of my life means so much to me, it's everything to me, as far as my family. It was hard for me the last couple of years to concentrate solely on basketball."
Iverson had a tumultuous last couple of years in the NBA, prior to taking that leave of absence from the 76ers. The Detroit Pistons benched him for the final seven games of the 2008-09 season and the playoffs, after Iverson expressed displeasure about coming off the bench. He signed with Memphis prior to the next season but played just three games for the Grizzlies before leaving the team, again unhappy with a reserve role. Iverson and the Grizzles eventually agreed to terminate his contract.
Iverson said Friday that he would have been open to coming off the bench for an NBA team this season, saying his agent, Leon Rose, "spoke to teams and assured them that I would help any team in any capacity if the situation was right." But still no teams showed any interest, and Iverson thinks he knows why.
"Honestly, I don't think my basketball talents had anything to do with the reason I'm not on an NBA roster right now," Iverson said. "I think it has a lot to do with a lot of other things. A lot of negative things that maybe I could have -- well, I [definitely] could have had a better grip on. A lot of me not being in the NBA, on an NBA roster, is my fault. But I can't cry over that; I have to move forward.
"I'm a competitor," Iverson continued. "And that's just what it is. Maybe it was taken the wrong way; maybe I didn't express myself the way I should have. Maybe it sounded selfish or something like that. But I just believe in my talent and believe in myself. I wanted to help an NBA basketball team. And that part of my life obviously at this point is done with, and I'm just trying to make the best out of this situation that I'm put in."
Iverson will head to Turkey in a week's time and should be playing for Besiktas a couple of weeks after that. His new club finished tied for fourth in the Turkish Basketball League last season.
But first, to wrap things up on Friday's events, after the formal news conference was over and after answering reporters' questions for several more minutes, Iverson posed for pictures with Besiktas officials, as well as several of their family members.
And then, at precisely 2:44 p.m., Iverson and his entourage headed for the door of the Versailles Room and walked out.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Answer is gone.
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