- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

RIGHT WORDS, WRONG ANSWER

One of the stylish things to do in pro sports these days is to talk about superstar players “not having it” anymore.

Well, not just talk about them, but skewer them for their seeming inability to realize when their skills have faded to the point of no return.

Never mind that, many times, icons who can’t seem to call it quits for good ultimately have proved their decisions to be correct — Lance Armstrong, Roger Clemens and Brett Favre heading the list.

But sometimes an athlete hangs around far beyond his expiration date, trumpeting his talents when it is excruciatingly obvious to the rest of the world that he needs to fade quietly into the post-retirement life of… whatever millionaire athletes do with all that free time.

Allen Iverson is in that category.

It’s poignant to watch a man who was once the best at his craft insist that he can still do it when all other evidence demonstrates that he cannot — at least not at the level he claims.

This week, Iverson reportedly said, “I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level,” adding that he has tremendous love for the game and that there is “a whole lot left in my tank.”

No one is questioning Iverson’s love for the game. No player in NBA history took more of a beating, bouncing off his foes, off the floor, always bouncing back up for more.

Yes, Iverson can compete at the highest level — just not as the player he once was, a starter taking 20 to 25 shots a game. The only way for him to survive in the NBA would be to evolve, to accept a role as a backup. Yet a big part of what made Iverson was his iron will, the characteristic that pushed him to succeed when everyone said he was too small for the NBA.

Throughout his career, no one could ever tell Allen Iverson how to play basketball. But now, the best favor anyone could do for him is to tell him that he cannot.

He Said What?

“Next to the vegetables.”

— Former 100-meter world-record holder Tim Montgomery on where he and former partner Marion Jones kept steroids in their refrigerator

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