Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson Among Greatest NBA/NFL What-Ifs

The world of sports is filled with dual-sport athletes who likely would have excelled if they had chosen another path. Mekhi Becton, who was selected by the New York Jets in this year’s NFL draft, was an explosive high school basketball athlete in Highland Springs, Virginia, before deciding to attend Louisville and focus on football full-time.

[Did you know that we are a dual-sport threat? Be sure to check out Pro Football Rumors for the latest news and rumors on the NFL Draft and offseason.]

One of the most famous examples of a player dominating in two sports and picking one over the other before college is another Virginia native, Allen Iverson.

Before going on to become a Hall of Fame player in the NBA, Iverson was in position to have a great football career. The Sixers great earned the State of Virginia’s High School Football Player of the Year and Basketball Player of the Year in the same season, as Tim Casey of VICE Sports details.

Iverson would have college recruiters, including Florida State’s staff, show up to his games. FSU believed Iverson could play quarterback for its football team while also playing point guard for the basketball team, similar to how Charlie Ward played both sports (Ward won a Heisman trophy in 1993 before playing 11 years in the NBA).

“We were on him hard,” former Florida State assistant head coach Chuck Amato previously told Casey  “He was just a great athlete and a competitor. He would’ve been the first Michael Vick.”

Vick, another Virginia athlete, was arguably the most electric playmaker ever to play college football. Iverson ultimately played basketball at Georgetown, but he missed the gridiron. While in the program, he approached coach John Thompson about playing for Georgetown’s football team and had his request denied.

“He said, ‘I’ll tell you what I think about you playing football. If you don’t get your skinny black [explicit] the eff out of my face…you better,'” Iverson told SLAM back in 2012. “Just like that. I never thought about playing football again after that. I mean, he made it clear that this is not why I was here.”

Iverson’s former football coach believes the now 44-year-old would have had a career similar to Deion Sanders. Iverson certainly thrived in the craft he pursued — he was the No. 1 pick in 1996 by the Sixers and he made 11 All-Star games in his career. Still, you wonder, what if…

“Football is always going to be my No. 1 sport,” Iverson said back in 2016. “It was my first love. Obviously if things went another way, I probably would have ended up playing football instead of basketball, but God got his way of doing things.”

In honor of this week’s NFL draft, here are a few others who showed off a combination of basketball and football talent:

  • Longtime NBA guard and three-time Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson, who appeared in more than 600 regular season games for eight NBA teams, initially enrolled at the University of Washington on a football scholarship before concentrating on basketball beginning in his sophomore year. At the end of his 11-year NBA career in 2016, the former Huskies defensive back tried out for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
  • Antonio Gates, one of the NFL’s all-time best tight ends, put up impressive numbers as a basketball player at Kent State, averaging 20.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 4.1 APG in 2002/03 on his way to All-MAC First Team honors. While Gates’ 955 career receptions and 116 total touchdowns in the NFL suggest he made the right choice, he has admitted to wondering how he might have performed in the NBA.
  • Before he was an NBA team president or head coach, Pat Riley was a two-sport athlete, having been drafted in 1967 by the San Diego Rockets in the NBA and as a wide receiver by the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. The Cowboys selected Riley and recruited him despite the fact that he hadn’t played football since high school. Although Riley says he considered playing in the NFL, he ultimately opted for the more viable basketball path and has now spent more than five decades in in the NBA as a player, broadcaster, coach, and executive.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: Lowry, M. Gasol, D-League, BIG3

All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, who underwent wrist surgery last week, confirmed that the injury wasn’t exactly a new one. As Mike Ganter of The Toronto Sun details, Lowry has been dealing with wrist problems for a while, but aggravated it prior to the All-Star break, necessitating surgery.

“From what I’ve been told, it’s a 10-year process,” Lowry said. “It’s a long process of wear and tear, and bumping and grinding, and hitting guys. It’s a little bit of wear and tear. It was just at the point where it got a little bit worse to the point where I couldn’t play. If it’s that serious for me, I knew it was something that needed to be checked on.”

Although Lowry has a plan in mind for when he’d like to return, the Raptors guard was unwilling to lay out his recovery timetable publicly, telling reporters that he just wants to be sure he’s “completely healthy” when he gets back on the court: “I don’t want to have to be not full Kyle going into any situation. I want to be able to go out and play and not have any hold-back.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the NBA:

  • After signing with Octagon Sports last year, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has left that agency and is currently without representation, reports Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (via Twitter). Gasol’s max contract won’t expire until at least 2019, so he won’t need to negotiate a new contract anytime soon.
  • While most NBA pundits who handed out grades for deadline trades did so just hours after the trade deadline passed last month, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer decided to wait a couple weeks to see how players meshed with their new teams. The Wizards, Raptors, Mavericks, and Rockets are among the teams to get high grades, while the Pelicans have earned an F so far, with the potential for an eventual A if they can figure things out with DeMarcus Cousins.
  • Former NBA players Jabari Brown, Jerrelle Benimon, and Shane Edwards have signed D-League contracts, according to Chris Reichert of The Step Back (all Twitter links). As Reichert notes (via Twitter), Brown’s rights are held by the Santa Cruz Warriors, while Benimon’s are held by the Delaware 87ers.
  • Allen Iverson and DerMarr Johnson will serve as co-captains for a BIG3 team called 3’s Company, according to the league’s website. Iverson and Johnson will fill out the rest of their five-man roster via the BIG3 draft pool.

Kenny Anderson, Jamario Moon Among Additions To BIG3

Five players have been announced as additions to the BIG3 league, President & Commissioner Roger Mason Jr. announced in a press release. Former Slam Dunk Contest participant Jamario Moon will join the league, as will Kenny Anderson, Etan Thomas, Ruben Patterson, and Smush Parker.

“There has been an outpouring of interest from our professional basketball community. We are so excited to bring quality players to the draft. We are building something special with this league. A league for the players, by the players,” Mason Jr. said.

BIG3’s talent pool has come together nicely since its January 11 inception, as NBA legends Allen Iverson, Jermaine O’Neal, Jason Williams, and more are set to resume their careers in a 3-on-3 format. While the league has scooped up players with recent NBA experience, Hall-of-Famers George Gervin and Clyde Drexler will serve crucial roles as coaches and ambassadors of the league.

Allen Iverson Commits To New BIG3 League As Player/Coach

Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson has committed to join the new BIG3 basketball league debuting this summer, and will serve as both a coach and a player, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Wojnarowski first reported last month that entertainer Ice Cube and former NBA player Roger Mason were working together to launch the league, having secured commitments from several retired NBA veterans.

[RELATED: New Pro League For Retired Players To Debut In 2017]

“I thought of this concept as a fan who got sick of seeing his heroes retire and not play anymore,” Ice Cube said at the time. “A lot of these guys can still play once they retire – just not the back-to-backs or four games in five nights.

“Not only do we get a chance to see these guys keep playing, but we give guys who retired who still got some game – who don’t want to pick up a [microphone] on TV and who don’t want to go overseas to play … some of these guys still want a stage to play on.”

Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson and Jason Williams were among the former NBA players initially reported to have committed to the BIG3, a half-court, three-on-three professional basketball league. In his latest report, Wojnarowski adds Chauncey Billups to that list of players.

According to Wojnarowski, Iverson will be one of eight dual head coaches/players in the league, which will feature eight teams. In his December report, Wojnarowski indicated that Gary Payton had agreed to be one of the coaches, though it’s not clear if The Glove would be a player as well.

The BIG3 conducted its first official press conference today, fielding questions about the league and introducing Iverson, Lewis, Martin, and Mason (Twitter link via Ian Begley of ESPN.com). A tweet from the BIG3 indicated that the league is expected to launch on June 24, shortly after the NBA Finals end.

And-Ones: Dalembert, S. Jackson, Larkin

Longtime NBA center Samuel Dalembert is facing battery charges for allegedly pushing his girlfriend and then choking her cousin when he tried to intervene, according to an Associated Press report (link via ESPN.com). Dalembert, whose last NBA action came with the Knicks in 2014/15, played in China last season, so it’s not clear whether he’s still hoping for an NBA comeback — if he is, his arrest likely reduced his chances of returning.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the league:

  • Stephen Jackson continues to seek an NBA job, and tells Rodger Bohn of SlamOnline.com that he isn’t interested in heading overseas or playing in the D-League. “NBA or nothing, man,” Jackson said. “I don’t need the money. I just want to give back to the game. Anything else is a step down, so I just want to give the NBA a shot.”
  • Former first-round pick Shane Larkin, who spoke to HoopsHype last month about his decision to opt out of his Nets contract and sign in Spain, discussed the move overseas with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Larkin stressed that he’s excited about the opportunity to play for Baskonia, pointing to the impressive list of NBA players who have played for the team in the past.
  • As Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk passes along, Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue told TMZ that his old NBA Finals nemesis Allen Iverson would be welcome to “come coach with me” if Iverson has interest in pursuing a coaching career.

Eastern Notes: Iverson, Anthony, Thibodeau

The big news of the night was the Sixers officially retiring Allen Iverson‘s #3 during a halftime ceremony at tonight’s contest with the Wizards. Iverson had officially announced his retirement back in October. He averaged 26.7 PPG and 6.2 APG in 914 career regular-season games, and scored 29.7 PPG in 71 career playoff games. Iverson, who also saw action with the Nuggets, Pistons, and Grizzlies, was an 11-time All-Star, a four-time scoring champion, a three-time member of the All-NBA First Team, and won the MVP award in 2001. Congrats go out to A.I..

More from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Gary Neal is overjoyed at the trade that sent him to the Bobcats, writes Dan McCarney of MySanAntonio.com. Neal told McCarney that he got on the first available plane out of the city, as he wasn’t fond of how he was utilized in Milwaukee, nor about the direction of the franchise. Neal stated, “I’m excited to be playing meaningful basketball again. After three years of being with the Spurs, with every possession of every game counting I’m just glad to being back to that. I’m a little too old for the tanking situation.”
  • Jay Yeomans of the Deseret News analyzes how Jimmer Fredette fits in with the Bulls, who he is rumored to have reached an agreement with earlier today.
  • With free-agency right around the corner, Carmelo Anthony must be taking notice of how much has gone wrong with the Knicks, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday.
  • If ‘Melo is really committed to winning, then he should follow the example of Miami’s “Big-Three”, writes Moke Hamilton of SNY.tv. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all took less to fit in under the salary cap, and Anthony should consider that before signing his next contract, opines Hamilton. It will be the only way for him to bring other star players to New York.
  • The Knicks might attempt to acquire Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after the season if they let go of Mike Woodson. Marc Berman of the New York Post looks at why the Knicks should try, the probability of the Bulls letting him go, and what it might cost.
  • Tom Moore of Calkins Media looks at what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie can do with the five second-round picks the team has in this year’s draft.
  • Metta World Peace has interest in joining the Pistons, according to his brother, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Allen Iverson Officially Announces Retirement

OCTOBER 30TH: Iverson officially announced his retirement this afternoon from Philadelphia, on NBA TV.

OCTOBER 17TH: Iverson will officially announce his retirement at the Sixers’ home opener against the Heat on October 30th, reports Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

AUGUST 21ST: Allen Iverson hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2009/10 season, but in the years since then, he has played overseas and continued to try to make an NBA comeback. It appears the 38-year-old is finally ready to call it a career though. According to Tzvi Twersky of SLAM, Iverson is prepared to officially announce his retirement in the coming days.

As recently as this March, Iverson indicated that he’d love the opportunity to play in the NBA again, but it has now been three and a half years since his last game for the 76ers. No NBA club has elected to roll the dice on him since then, and Iverson was unwilling to play in the D-League this past year as an audition of sorts.

Assuming Iverson makes it official in the near future, he’ll retire as the NBA’s 19th-leading scorer of all time, though Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Tim Duncan are right on his heels and could pass him next season. Iverson averaged 26.7 PPG and 6.2 APG in 914 career regular-season contests, and increased his scoring average to 29.7 PPG in 71 playoff games. The longtime Sixer, who also spent time with the Nuggets, Pistons, and Grizzlies, was an 11-time All-Star, a four-time scoring champion, a three-time member of the All-NBA First Team, and won the MVP award in 2001.

In addition to his on-court achievements, the former first overall pick played a significant role in the evolution of the NBA’s off-court culture over the last two decades. According to Basketball-Reference, Iverson also earned more than $154MM during his 14-year NBA career.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Carmelo, Fields

The New York Post’s Marc Berman (via Twitter) thinks it was a bad sign for C.J. Leslie’s chances of making the Knicks roster after the rookie forward didn’t receive any playing time during tonight’s pre-season game against the Wizards. On the other hand, Berman and Newsday’s Al Iannazzone both made note that Knicks head coach Mike Woodson was particularly pleased with training camp invites Toure Murry and Ike Diogu (Twitter links). It should be noted that Murry and Diogu are playing on non-guaranteed contracts, while Leslie has a partially-guaranteed deal.

Here are some more links to pass along out of the Atlantic Division:

  • ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor writes that unless the Knicks are clearly the best option for a chance to win a ring, Carmelo Anthony would be foolish to not test the waters in free agency next summer. O’Connor argues that opting out would put pressure on GM Steve Mills to come up with a viable championship vision and abandon the idea of relying on J.R. Smith and Andrea Bargnani as the next best options on offense.
  • Raptors head coach Dwane Casey tells Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun that he wants the second unit to be able to increase leads or hold serve when they enter the game, and added that Landry Fields‘ ability to knock down shots – in addition to the other intangibles he brings to the table – would be a huge plus for the team.
  • Casey also had this to say about training camp hopeful Julyan Stone: “He reminds me of a younger Nate McMillan with that long, lanky body that can defend. He showed that he can play,” 
  • Though ESPN had originally reported that Allen Iverson plans to officially announce his retirement before the 76ers host the Heat in their home opener, a team spokesperson could not confirm the report (Tom Moore of Bucks County Courier Times).

Eastern Notes: Iverson, Monroe, Bucks, Heat

As the Heat prepare to face the Nets for the first time since Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce headed to Brooklyn, LeBron James discussed the ex-Celtics who were critical of Ray Allen signing with Miami a year ago.

“I think the first thing I thought was ‘Wow, Ray got killed for leaving Boston and now these guys are leaving Boston,'” James said, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. “I think it’s OK, I didn’t mind it. But there were a couple guys who basically (expletive) on Ray for leaving and now they’re leaving. That’s the nature of our business, man. I don’t know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc [Rivers], KG and Paul did that as well. You can’t criticize someone who does something that’s best for their family.”

As we look forward to a preseason matchup that could be an early preview of an Eastern Conference playoff series, let’s round up a few other items from around the East….

Ric Bucher Compares T-Mac to AI & ‘Melo

After announcing his retirement this week, there's been a large debate surrounding the career of Tracy McGrady. That polarization could best be summed up in the split vote in our poll asking whether McGrady should make the Hall of Fame earlier this week.  McGrady's peak seasons between 2001-2007 point to a dominant scorer who could also pass the ball and rebound.

T-Mac's 2002-03 season with the Magic saw him post the 16th best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in NBA history, according to basketball-reference. Despite the numbers and the seven consecutive All-Star game appearances from 2001 through 2007, McGrady never led his team out of the first round of the playoffs. 

Grantland's E-I-C, Bill Simmons, wrote a long piece on the Friday before Labor Day weekend in which he blames McGrady's playoff failings almost exclusively on his supporting cast. Radio host for 95.7 The Game Ric Bucher has some thoughts on the matter (Sulia link).

While referencing Simmons' piece — where he spoke with McGrady's former coaches and peers and concluded that McGrady just wasn't hardwired to be a leader — Bucher believes that is a referendum on why McGrady didn't reach his full potential over his career. 

Bucher then compares McGrady with a contemporary, Allen Iverson, who also officially announced his retirement this month, and current player Carmelo Anthony:

Bill Simmons, in his wonderfully written and one of the longer dissertations on the subject, acknowledges TMac was not a leader. That's just it — once you state that and acknowledge how talented TMac was, you've outlined the crippling combination that foretold TMac never would be all that his talent promised. Such players aren't all that unique; Carmelo Anthony is another example. One of the absolutes in the NBA is that when the best player doesn't set the work-ethic bar for everyone else, a team has no hope of reaching its potential. Allen Iverson doesn't get to play the I-never-had-enough-talent-around-me card for the same reason. Both AI and TMac were never the defensive players they could've been. And when your effort to be in pristine condition is a question mark, as it was with McGrady, and injuries become chronic and sometimes debilitating, it's not as easy to blame bad luck and weak supporting casts.

Bucher goes on to write that McGrady chose to go to Orlando and Houston, even if they didn't have the supporting players he could have used to make a larger dint in the playoffs:

The other element either being overlooked or not widely known is that TMac chose to go to both Orlando and Houston, so it's not as if he was some helpless victim cast into inferior situations. Maybe that's how it turned out, maybe management misled him as far as what they intended to do, but he chose those situations over others. I've long said that on pure talent, TMac had more than Kobe; he was one of the rare few who had the pure ability to dominate whatever aspect of the game he chose, no matter who the opponent was. And as personalities go, I can vouch firsthand that few NBA players had a warmer one. All of which makes painting him as a sympathetic figure or a guy who didn't have the luck that so many others enjoyed easy. Dead wrong, but easy.