First Mike Vick. Then the World Series...and now *long sigh of relief* Allen Iverson is back home! Way to end the year with a bang Philadelphia! On my drive home today I was listening to the press conference on the radio and 3 minutes in, tough guy A.I. was in tears saying how this return was such a blessing. I'd be lying if I said I didn't shed a tear. Well, actually not just A tear...a girl was straight boo-hooing. In the car, on Lincoln Drive, I was SOBBING because I was overjoyed. I felt like my family, my baby boy was home to stay.
As I flashback to the days when Nike was my Louboutin, and there was nothing greater then when my name and stats were in the paper, Allen Iverson was my basketball love. I remember watching him play at Georgetown, and cutting out pictures of him in magazines to paste on my wall. In 1996, he came to Philly and gave this city exuberance. Yeah, he was cocky, but he was Philadelphia's bravado personified. He was the MAN...and eventually as I grew older, nothing was greater that to see him in Olde City. I remember one night at the M Lounge passing him seated at the bar. There was no obnoxious entourage, or braggadocios charade...it was just Allen. He was one of us. And for that reason we loved him.
But the relationship wasn't always easy. We watched A.I. grow. We cheered with his mamma nem (yes, hood style) in the stands, remember when he got married and the marital drama that ensued. We were there when children were born and practices were missed, and charges were filed. We were there when he led us to the finals in 2001, and watched in the agony as he butt heads with Coach Larry Brown. It was bittersweet to see him leave in 2006, but like an unruly, ungrateful, and disrespectful teenager...sometimes love isn't enough. Sometimes despite their amazing potential, and your fear they may never return, you just have to let them go in hopes that being unsheltered will help them get it together.
I don't think Allen or Philadelphia ever thought he'd return. We let him go and watched painfully as it appeared he'd never find the balance between his star and his team. But despite all his accolades and undeniable talent, Allen Iverson has never won a ring. After flirting with retirement, the opportunity for Allen to come home and play again has become a defining moment for his career. Hell, we know it ain't the money. Not for a one year non-guaranteed contract for $1 million! Shoot, there are people with the franchise pushing paper making $1 million a year. Allen Iverson is back and playing for love. Love for the Game. Love for his fans. Love for Philly.
I feel like this is a Love & Basketball moment when Sanaa Lathan is playing one on one with Omar Epps for his heart. I am sure when A.I. steps on the court Monday to play his former team, the Denver Nuggets, he will be playing to win back the hearts of Philadelphia. I applaud his humility, his courage, and believe he will be greater than ever before. Not defined just by steals or number of 3's hit, but by character, and leadership. I truly hope (at least once) that we all gain the chance to be so humbled by an opportunity, or by the possibility of love, that we are so inspired to shed a tear, thank God, and play our hearts out. That by experiencing loss, we learn to appreciate the things or people we once neglected. We may not be able to guarantee a win, but at least when the day is done, we too, like Allen Iverson, will retire proudly in the company of those who have loved us along the way...or like the movie, ante up for double or nothing.