PHILADELPHIA — Allen Iverson seems set for another crossover — this one from the NBA to the Turkish basketball league.
On a night another NBA season opens, Iverson will be checking his passport status. He’s close to a deal to sign with Besiktas, and team executive board member Seref Yalcin is ready to meet with him this week to work out contract details.
For those close to Iverson, the idea of the All-Star guard playing in Turkey instead of braiding his cornrows for opening night is an inglorious end to a 14-year career.
“I think it’s sad having him have to go to Turkey to finish his career,” Bobcats coach Larry Brown said Tuesday. “I wish there was some way I was in a position to help.”
Brown and the 2001 NBA MVP had a contentious relationship with the Sixers, but the two worked together despite several disputes. Iverson had survived the rift with Brown, joked about his memorable rants about practice and had seemingly put his troubled off-court past behind him. He was humbled and more reserved when he returned to the Sixers last season.
Iverson turned 35 in June and had wanted to keep playing in the NBA. He has been out of work since leaving the Philadelphia in March to deal with family issues. He returned to Atlanta to be with his family as they dealt with an undisclosed illness of his 4-year-old daughter, Messiah. Iverson’s wife, Tawanna, filed for divorce the same week he left the Sixers.
“The only thing I’d like to say about Allen’s personal life is his daughter’s health has improved tremendously and she’s doing much, much better,” Moore said.
Iverson’s biggest supporters feel his personal baggage — such as complaints last season about coming off the bench — is the primary reason he can’t find a home in the NBA.
“I don’t think it’s helped him,” Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski said.
It might not matter overseas.
Gary Moore, Iverson’s personal manager, said Iverson was not contacted by any NBA team. He cautioned not to put those No. 3 jerseys in storage quite yet, even if the team name sounds a bit unfamiliar.
“You should be extremely optimistic that you have not seen the last of Allen Iverson,” Moore said.
Barring any last-minute snags, Iverson and Besiktas could have a signed deal by the end of the week. Yalcin said he would discuss “a variety of details” with Iverson at their meeting, including schools in Istanbul for Iverson’s children.
Yalcin said earlier this week, “I think this transfer will take place.”
Iverson has not talked publicly since ending his second stint with the Sixers. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Iverson’s employment search has baffled some of those around the league who feel that Iverson, even with hard miles from his all-out style on those knees, could still land a job somewhere.
“I haven’t seen him play in about a year and a half, but I don’t think he could’ve lost his game in a year and a half,” former Nuggets teammate Carmelo Anthony said.
Sixers assistant coach Aaron McKie, a former teammate, said Iverson returned more focused on becoming a leader.
“I think he tried, he tried everything,” he said. “But when you’re used to being Mick Jagger and playing in front of 100,000 people to playing your music in bars, it’s not easy. I still think he has a place in this game.”
Iverson is 17th on the NBA’s career scoring list with 24,368 points over a 14-year career with Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit and Memphis. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft and spent his first 10 seasons in Philadelphia. He was a four-time scoring champion, averaged 26.7 points and never won a championship.
“He transcended the game,” McKie said. “He needs to be honored for that. Look at the whole culture, the braids, the swagger, giving the smaller people on the court confidence they could compete with the big guys. He should be celebrated for that.”
Brown said he spoke with Iverson’s agent, Leon Rose, about trying to find an NBA landing spot for Iverson. Brown can’t stand the idea of Iverson’s NBA career ending in a whimper.
Brown made his former guard co-captain of the 2004 Olympic men’s basketball team.
“All the people told me when he went to Philly he was trying to do everything to fit in, and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” Brown said. “A lot of times you get labeled in this league and you just have to hope that somebody believes in you.”
‘If anybody sees Allen, call me. I’m still here,” Anthony said. “Call me. Holler at me man.”