The NBA world is certainly focused on Allen Iverson today, with everyone weighing in on the demise of his career, and how he ranks as an all-time great.
Bob Ryan, the nattering nabob of negativity of the Boston Globe, had this to say about AI (via TrueHoop):
"'The Answer' is what his adoring public calls him. Well, today's question is, 'Can you win a championship with Allen Iverson as your best player?' Thus far, the answer is no, and AI is now 33."
Ryan is nothing if not confrontational in his writing, and you can't take what he says too much to heart. The man, after all, is paid to write paragraphs that get people talking.
Still, his point is dubious, at best. After all, could you not say the same thing about Paul Pierce prior to last season? Not only had he not won a championship entering last November, Pierce had failed to make the playoffs in more than half of his NBA seasons.
What changed? Was it Pierce, or was it the addition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? Were Pierce and Iverson to have swapped teams last season, who would have finished with a better record? Does the idea of a Pierce-Anthony-Camby trio sound more playoff-ready than an Iverson-Allen-Garnett trio? Is Pierce somehow now a "champion" and Iverson is a "loser," simply because Danny Ainge was able to take advantage of his relationship with Kevin McHale?
No, the 'answer' to all of these questions is not that Iverson has been lacking, it's that he's played on some lousy teams. It is nearly impossible for a guard to take an NBA team to the finals without help, and for Ryan to castigate Iverson for doing so is foolish.
Allen Iverson is one of the toughest competitors in the history of professional sports. He is also, simultaneously, one of the biggest ball-hogs in the history of the NBA. Regardless, to say that he is responsible for his teams failing to win a championship is just plain wrong.
It isn't all the fault of Iverson but the shortfall isn't all about the rest of cast either. The two parts have to work well together and Iverson hasn't made his teammates better, at least enough so and not as well as some others like Duncan, Garnett, O'Neal and back in the day Jordan.
I would agree with you to a point, but isn't everything you could say about Iverson simultaneously true of Garnett, at least until this season?
For argument's sake, let's say that Kevin McHale did not have a soft spot for the Celtics, and doesn't make the Garnett trade with Boston. KG spends the rest of his career in Minnesota and (likely) never reaches the Finals, let alone wins a championship.
Do we then say that Garnett is a loser at the conclusion of his career? That he never made his teammates better? That he's no different than Iverson?
Yes, we would say that. But, in fact, the KG who wears a championship ring on his finger today is the same KG we criticized prior to last season for not being the kind of guy who wins championships, unlike Duncan, or Shaq, or any of the other big men we criticized him for not becoming.
In reality, he is the same person, but put in different circumstances. I would argue that just by being Allen Iverson - that is to say, the most dynamic small player in league history - AI makes his teammates better. Undoubtedly, he hurts his team at times by requiring the offense run through him so many times, but at the same time, he takes a ton of pressure off of his teammates by always wanting to make the big shot.
That's a long-winded way to say: Judging a player by the number of championships he has won is not a logical decision-making process. Even Michael Jordan would suffer in that scenario were he to be placed on a team like the Thunder or the Bobcats.
I hear your point up til last season they had both been runnerups in the finals, not bad but not enough. However Garnett is the very best of the very best type of NBA player according to one study, with a huge league leading +14.5 adjusted +/- on the most recent blended multi-year study at 82 games while Iverson pulls a modest +3.3. Garnett's defense is the big difference but he must help offense some too.
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