What is the answer? Omega. The end. It appears that the answer is indeed at an end as Allen Iverson announced his retirement from the NBA yesterday. His basketball credentials are what they are and his heart and courage in physically dominating a game that is the domain of giants is all but unheard of. But Allen Iverson actually meant more than a basketball player.
In the post-Jordan NBA landscape, Allen Iverson brought Hip-Hop into the living rooms of sports fans who could avoid Hip-Hop by turning the radio off, driving around the hood, staying away from their local Magic Johnson movie theater and sending their kids to prep school.
Allen Iverson was perhaps the most visible manifestation of Hip-Hop. The icy, menacing glare. The slow, bowlegged gait. The bowling alley brawl pedigree. His relentless, indomitable will. His unfailing ‘Pac-like flawed, unrelenting honesty. That triple crossover of Jordan representing Hip-Hop’s stand against the prevailing powers that be. And ultimately, the borderline foolish pride that wouldn’t allow him to operate on others’ terms; the inability to submit and to play someone else’s game.
Allen Iverson became a cultural icon in the same way Snoop Dogg became simultaneously a symbol of adulation and fear. He was the New World Order awash in tattoos and adorned with corn rows. While Michael Jordan was a larger than life hero, idolized for his distance, the answer was loved for his closeness; for the flawed proximity to mere mortals. He found a way to push back, with blinding speed, when height was not enough. With will when speed was not enough. With heart when will was insufficient.
Hip-Hop, much to the chagrin of David Stern embraced Iverson full bore; in stark contrast to the NBA’s beloved corporate suitors. His English wasn’t the best. You could see the honesty and the humility coated with the armor of false hubris. He was aware of his faults, but he dared you to prey on them.
I don’t know whether this is the final curtain call. With so much talent still left in the tank, you have to wonder whether this is a temporary; Farve-like and borne of frustration. You wonder if the crap table will provide enough to fuel his competitive desires, or whether some team in a playoff push won’t call on his services.
If this is his epitaph, let it read here that against insurmountable odds, whether it be his tour of duty in a war of giants, or his out-manned and outgunned defiance in the 2001 NBA Finals, Allen Iverson stood his ground. Though in this instance it means that he give up that round ball that became his salvation, he always stood his ground.
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