LAKERS - The Lakers still own Southern California. The Clippers have developed a presence, and a loyal following, but they still have 30 years of neglect to overcome. The Lakers are also showing that they are just a top draft pick, a good free agent signing, and a healthy Kobe Bryant away from being title contenders. It is not likely that this could happen next year, but stranger things have happened.
They upset a powerful Trail Blazer team player score of 107-106. This was an encouraging win, and it shows that the team has not quit on the year. Their fans are looking for anything that will give them hope for next year and for the future. They will have to be patient, since rebuilding a team is a very unpredictable enterprise.
CLIPPERS - This is the team that would like to win the hearts and the minds of the locals. They are fun to watch, and every one of their games usually has several spectacular dunks. Coach Rivers is desperately trying to make them into a fundamentally sound, aggressive basketball team, since he knows that they have not achieved championship caliber yet. Even though they had a great season, they may not make it past the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
ALLEN IVERSON - He was given a Retirement Sendoff Party by the Philadelphia 76ers. This was his first NBA team, and the one with which he is most closely identified. Iverson will be 39 years old, in June of this year. He has been desperately trying to sign on with some team, any team, so that he could continue his career. However, sad to say, none of them would give him a chance.
The reality is that he can still play well enough so that he could help some team improve its postseason chances. However, there is now a general feeling in the NBA that he is no longer worth the trouble that he causes. So, none of the teams offered him a contract, not even a small one.
Iverson, pound for pound, is among the greatest athletes who ever lived. He is only six feet tall, and he weighs approximately 165 pounds. Yet, he was an all-state high school performer in both basketball and football. It appears that he received insufficient parental guidance, when he was a child. He signed an NBA contract that should have made him a wealthy man for the rest of his life. He spent great deals of money on gambling and drinking. His motto seem to be "Easy come, easy go", since I will be receiving a check from someone tomorrow.
In addition to receiving one of the top salaries in the NBA, Iverson also received commission royalties by doing several commercials. He also has a very lucrative shoe deal that paid him handsomely. In other words Iverson had it made, but he seemed to be the only one who did not appreciate his good fortune.
Looking back on his life and his career, it is easy to acknowledge that he grew up in a very poor neighborhood, with his mother. At the age of 15, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for participating in a brawl, after high school. However, he was released from prison after just a few months. He then graduated from high school and enrolled at Georgetown University.
He played basketball there for the legendary John Thompson II. Thompson was the first of the big time African American basketball head coaches. If you played for him at Georgetown, and if you needed to be straightened out, he was the man who could and would do it. However, if he added anything that was positive to Iverson's life, it was not anything that most of us could notice.
As unbelievable as it sounds today, Iverson was spending and gambling away more money that he was earning. He behaved as if tomorrow was never coming. Well, his tomorrow is here now. There are many around who suggest that he has several million dollars of debt, and that bankruptcy is on the horizon. If he does go into bankruptcy, he will be stripped of many of the things that he purchased in better days.
I think that all of us who watched him play basketball with such incredible passion and skill are hoping that he finds a way to have a soft landing. He never seemed to care much about his life, and that is probably still the case. With all of his many talents, there was still something that was missing, and that is what he will have to deal with now.