At age 36, and after an injury-filled stint in Turkey, Allen Iverson is set on finishing his professional basketball career with a return to the NBA – the very league that showed no interest in him, forcing the one-time Philadelphia 76ers All-Star to seek employment overseas.
So what gives Iverson confidence he can still play anywhere near his former elite level next season?
“It’s me,” he told the Associated Press, laughing. “That’s what gives me confidence. I know what I can do. Everybody in the world knows what I can do. Everybody knows what I can do on the basketball court.”
Iverson played for four teams in his last two NBA seasons, then left the Turkish club Besiktas with a leg injury after playing only 10 games.
A painful calcium mass developed on his right calf and he returned home opting for rest instead of surgery. Iverson’s manager, Gary Moore, said Iverson has yet to receive the green light from Dr. James Andrews to resume contact drills. Iverson was not expected to get cleared until mid-July.
“Just give me a training camp,” he said. “Maybe I’ve rubbed people the wrong way as far as saying the things I’ve said in my life and in my career. But if any team needs me to help try and win a championship in any capacity, I’m waiting.”
He might have a long wait. Throw in a possible work stoppage with NBA owners and players far apart on a new labor deal, and Iverson might again be forced to look outside the NBA for a team. He signed a $4 million, two-year contract with Besiktas. But Iverson made it clear to the AP his first priority is the NBA.
“If that doesn’t happen, I just want to play basketball, so I’ve got to weigh my options and do what’s best for me and my career,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, I don’t want to not play basketball. I don’t have any more years to be wasting.”
Iverson insisted he enjoyed his stay in Turkey.
“It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “They were great to me. They embraced me like I would never think. Everything was great as far as that experiment.”
Meanwhile, Iverson has been dogged by a host of personal problems — his wife is rumored to have filed for divorce and his daughter battled serious health problems — but the athlete said his life these days is great. All that’s missing is basketball.
“The only thing that I give a damn about is that the people that care about me know that I’m all right,” he said. “All I want is my real fans to know I’m fine, my wife is fine, my kids are fine. I’m fine and I’m looking forward to getting back on a team and being productive like I have been my whole career.”