Not A Fan of A.I.

By Jason Whitlock
Updated: April 10, 2009

DETROIT — No one wants to blame The Answer. We never do. He reminds us of our own shortcomings and failures.

In the pantheon of spoiled, media-cuddled, overhyped professional basketball players, Allen Iverson reigns supreme.

At least Charles Barkley wanted to win. Karl Malone and John Stockton tried to win. Patrick Ewing — like Barkley, Malone and Stockton — was cursed by the misfortune of being great at the same time Michael Jordan was other worldly.

Iverson has no such excuse. He arrived at the tail end of Air Jordan’s rulership. As Isiah Thomas was the bridge between the Magic-Bird and Jordan eras, Iverson was supposed to transition us from Jordan to Kobe-Shaq.

Despite what Iverson’s media apologists write and say, The Answer was an underachiever on and off the court.

If this reads like an obituary, that’s because it is.

Iverson’s career as an NBA legend died of self-inflicted wounds this season in Detroit. Much like the death of his role model, rapper Tupac Shakur, Iverson’s supporters will reject the news of his demise and predict a Machiavellian return, a Dr. J-like finish to Iverson’s career.

Picture me rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

Winning has never really mattered to Allen Iverson. He is the embodiment of everything that has gone wrong in America, an unexposed, all-style-little-substance Hall of Famer.

In five months, Iverson accomplished what Flip Saunders couldn’t in three years. The Answer turned the six-time Eastern Conference finalists into a hanging-by-a-string, eighth-place playoff qualifier.

And then he quit, citing back problems, a reduced role and lack of interest. Officially the Pistons deactivated Iverson for the remainder of the season due to injuries.

The truth is, Iverson took his ball and went home, uncomfortable with the thought of easing back into the rotation with limited participation in practice and games.

Iverson said he’d rather retire than come off the bench, help the Pistons win and represent Detroit. Loser.

This column came to me last week when I was in The Motor City covering the NCAA Tournament. Tom Izzo and his Michigan State Spartans shocked everyone, advancing to the title game and claiming they wanted to serve as an inspiration to the economically depressed people of their state.

Meanwhile, Iverson gave up on Chocolate City, a chocolate coach (Michael Curry), a chocolate general manager (Joe Dumars) and an all-chocolate, one-Argentine roster.

I mention race because Iverson, his tatts, his swagger, his rap sheet and his style of play all supposedly gave him a special level of street cred and no-sellout status.

How you like Iverson now, Detroit?

The view from up close is quite chilling and enlightening. His ghetto-warrior reputation couldn’t be any further separated from reality than had the producers of “Lost” written his script.

Iverson is a one-man, no-country Army, more than likely the victim of a dysfunctional upbringing that left him incapable of embracing the concepts essential to teamwork, winning and sacrifice for the benefit of others.

We’re a nation of Allen Iversons, and the unchecked Wall Street greed that has us on the brink of collapse is nothing more than our chickens coming home to rot.

The assault on, the destruction of and lack of appreciation for the American family has created a nation of independent contractors. We’re no longer connected.

Your destiny has nothing to do with mine.

Iverson has always been a soloist.

He could’ve been the second-best point guard in the history of the game (after Magic Johnson). But the idea of being a distributor first and scorer second stood in the way of a futile, ridiculous effort to chase Jordan. At 6-foot, 165 pounds, Iverson had as much of a chance of filling Jordan’s Jordans as yours truly being the next Ron Jeremy.

Iverson tailored a compromise position — points guard. For much of his career, he played both backcourt positions at the same time, leaving his teammates plenty of opportunity to stand around and watch. In 13 NBA seasons, he’s averaged 22 shots, 27 points, six assists and 42 percent shooting from the field.

In comparison, Isiah Thomas averaged 16 shots, 19 points, nine assists and connected on 45 percent of his shots. In 11 seasons, Thomas played in 111 playoff games and won two titles.

Iverson has played in 71 postseason games and advanced to the conference and NBA Finals just once. (It’s also worth mentioning that in two college seasons, Thomas won an NCAA title, and in the same amount of time, Iverson never made the Final Four.)

In 2001, after the Sixers embarrassed him with threats of an offseason trade and with Larry Brown brow-beating Iverson nightly, he put together a remarkable, MVP season and carried Philadelphia to the NBA Finals.

That season was the one glimpse at what Iverson should’ve been. He won a career-high 56 regular-season games with Aaron McKie, Eric Snow, Tyrone Hill and 34-year-old Dikembe Mutombo providing support. Focused and motivated, Iverson reluctantly listened to Brown and pretended to be a winner.

Of course, it didn’t last long. Iverson’s narcissistic play and demeanor prevented him from developing a Tonto, a Pippen, a McHale, a Worthy, a Dumars. Iverson has never been accused accurately of making the players around him better.

Iverson didn’t bring out the best or worst in Carmelo Anthony in Denver. The two stars simply co-existed. Chauncey Billups, the other half of the Iverson-to-Detroit trade, has Anthony and the Nuggets sitting at No. 2 in the West and a sexy pick to win it all.

Iverson, a free agent this offseason, will return to the league next year. I’d imagine he’ll try to cherry-pick a title by attempting to join LeBron James. It won’t be a replay of Kevin Garnett teaming with Paul Pierce.

It’ll be Titanic II with Allen Iceberg.