Sep 20, 2010

A.I. Cronicales Part 1: Is China a Legitimate Option For Iverson?

This article is part one of a two-part piece chronicling the Philadelphia 76ers and their history with the A.I. Part one will chronicle former guard Allen Iverson and his future in the NBA and abroad.

By now most NBA fans have heard the news that Allen Iverson has expressed an interest to play in China next season. The move comes on the eve of NBA training camps and the lack of interest teams within the league have expressed in the 35-year-old guard.

Iverson's agent, Gary Moore, spoke with the media about the possibility of the Sixers all-time leading scorer heading to China and the fact that there is a lack of interest in the NBA for the guard.

"We're very astonished, to say the least, that not one team has contacted us with any interest," Moore said. "I just don't understand it."

Really Gary...

If recent history has taught us anything about the careers of aging athletes, heading to a foreign land seems like the next logical step for A.I.

We saw Stephon Marbury wear out his welcome within the league and make a quick exit to China. The former all-star Tracy McGrady may be right behind him too.

When a player in the league reaches the end of their career they only have a few options and most of those are non-options for Iverson.

Option 1: Television

As we saw with former players and coaches like Eric Snow, Reggie Miller, Avery Johnson, and the Sixers new head coach Doug Collins, a foray into television is a good way to remain relevant in the league until another "in" is found...based on Iverson's lackluster history with the media and his off-court transgressions, television is definitely out of the question.

Option 2: Coaching

We have seen in recent years that after a player reaches the end of their career many move into the ranks of coaching. In fact some of the NBA's best coaches are former players. Most of the time these players start as bench coaches with their former franchises (i.e. Sam Cassell in Boston, Aaron McKie in Philadelphia).

The problem with this option is that Iverson may go down as the most "un-coachable" player in league history.

We saw when Iverson made his short return to the Sixers last year that it in fact hurt the development of rookie point guard Jrue Holiday. Beside that, most of the players that choose this post-playing career track are organization guys that are loved within their community.

In Philadelphia, Iverson may be loved by the fans, but when it comes to the front office he is a legendary coach killer...Once again not an option.

Option 3: Take Your Money and Run

Another option for an aging player is for them to retire gracefully and spend the rest of their days enjoying the fruits of their labor by opening car dealerships or playing golf.

With all the money Iverson has made throughout his career you would think this could be an option, but just like many players Iverson may leave the league with less money than he had when he entered.

Iverson has had a storied career with gambling and substance abuse. Not to mention the fact that he has an entourage the size of a major rap star (most are on his personal payroll).

Even with these factors you would think that a player that has had the endorsements the size of Iverson's would have a nest egg.

When you think about the end of Allen Iverson's career you will notice that many of his later career decisions were based on money. Allen had no interest in becoming a member of the Memphis Grizzlies last season but he needed the paycheck. His outstanding debts made the decision for him and those debts became even worse this past offseason.

Iverson will now owe alimony to his former wife Tawanna who left the former first overall pick and petitioned the court for full custody of their five children, which will compound the amount Iverson will owe.

As you can see, leaving the game gracefully is no longer an option for Iverson.

Option 4: Play Overseas

This is the final and, at times, saddest end for many players' careers. This is not a situation like that of Josh Childress who left for Greece to make more money in the height of his career, or Brandon Jennings who went overseas as a parlay to the NBA. For Iverson it will be a publicity roller-coaster ride and a pseudo-marketing career move.

The fact is that in China the NBA is one of the biggest money-makers in sports. They love the sport and the money players can make overseas through endorsements and marketing can quickly dwarf their league salaries.

For Allen Iverson the situation is that China is a place he can seem relevant again and at the same time make the money he is going to need to remain out of a bankruptcy court.

For those of you that feel bad for Allen Iverson and the fact that your favorite star is no longer in the NBA, you have to realize the cold, hard truth: he did this to himself and there were other options.

But based on his career as the league's biggest bad boy and his off-court behavior he has left himself with no other option.

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