The National Basketball Players Association has estimated that 60 percent of retired players go broke five years after their NBA paychecks dry up. So it's not surprising to hear that a future Hall of Famer like Allen Iverson has fallen upon hard times, despite the fact that he earned more than $154 million in salary (and more in endorsements) during his 15-year NBA career.
His lifestyle included multiple cars, houses, a large posse and a traveling hairstylist to do his cornrows every few days. His love for bling didn't help, either — a Georgia judge recently ordered his wages garnished in order to pay a jeweler more than $850,000. NBA opportunities dried up in 2010 — Iverson played his last game exactly two years ago Monday. His most recent offer to play pro sports comes from another league and involves a different ball.
New York's Rochester Lancers, of the Major Indoor Soccer League, offered Iverson a contract over the weekend. The team has two regular-season games left on its schedule and offered to pay Iverson $20,000 per game with a $5,000 bonus for each goal scored, as well as bonuses for wins and merchandise sales.
"Allen Iverson is one of the premier athletes of our time," Lancers Vice President Rich Randall said in a press release. "With his athleticism and competitive hunger, I think he can be a great fit with our team and fans as we make an important playoff push, while also driving interest to an exciting, growing sport."
Iverson's status as a world-class athlete isn't in question. His quickness and toughness easily could have transferred to several sports, including soccer, football and baseball. But Randall can't be serious in suggesting that Iverson could be anything but a publicity stunt. It's an insult to players on the Lancers and other MISL teams, who earn a fraction of the money offered to Iverson. That's no way to earn credibility for "an exciting and growing sport."
Iverson, 36, hasn't played pro basketball since the end of 2010, when he spent a few months with a Turkish team that signed him to a two-year, $4 million contract. According to Yahoo Sports, he has an offer to play in Puerto Rico, but he's holding out hopes for an NBA return. ESPN.com reports that Iverson would even consider playing in the NBA's minor league if it meant a chance at a job with the big boys.
If pro basketball isn't in his future, here's hoping that Iverson doesn't agree to gimmicks like playing pro soccer. It's bad enough that one of the NBA's all-time greats is broke.
It would be a shame if he also turned into a circus act.