parallel universe (n.): A universe or space-time continuum that exists alongside ours, and which may possess different physical laws or a different history. – Answers.com dictionary
Talk about your critical decisions: I mean, imagine if Allen Iverson had turned down Olympiacos’ mammoth $10 million offer back in August to come play for the Angelopoulos Brothers’ Reds. In just three Euroleague games and three in the Greek League, the Answer has multiplied the awareness of Continental basketball on the other side of the Pond while rebooting his reputation as one of the greatest ever at taking over a game.
Sure, Olympiacos may only be 2-1 in Euroleague play (apparently not even Iverson is bigger than the H1N1 virus that took out a number of his teammates before the Unicaja game), but this team has got to be considered the favorites to take the crown in 2010 with seemingly little adequate competition for the Reds. (Pity poor Efes Pilsen tomorrow night, who, like so many others, have never experienced anything like playing against the Answer.)
In fact, the 86-68 loss and the attendant controversy around it has made for the sole speed bump in what may, ultimately, go down as the most important season in A.I.’s career. Media in the U.S. and Europe made much of Iverson’s remarks about not attending practice for fear of contacting the flu infecting teammates, not to mention his 4-of-18 shooting for just 13 points in the game – marks that might be acceptable on a bad night in the NBA, but represent the sort of ball-hogging that European teams, said common wisdom, would have done well to stay away from. Iverson backers point to his 20-plus and 25-plus ppg averages in Euroleague and A1 play to say “Who needs the extra pass when you can drive the lane like the Answer does?”
But no matter, the point was – and is, still – that Euroleague games are freaking headlining ESPN SportsCenter in the U.S. And Euroleague and Greek basketball has managed to capture the fancy of innumerable European sportswriters and bloggers previously graced with tunnel vision capable of viewing only soccer. Just imagine if A.I. hadn’t taken his wife’s advice and attempted instead to take a pay cut and hang on with some fledgling NBA squad wanting to use the Iverson name to sell tickets for a losing team in hard economic times … think ESPN would care one whit for some of the finest hoops played in the world? Ha! Talk about your critical decisions.
Beyond the winners in the Iverson-to-Olympiacos – and there’s a long list here including but not limited to Olympiacos itself, undefeated in three Greece A1 League games and looking unstoppable by human competitors; the Angelopouloses, who surely resemble the luckiest rollers at the craps table; Josh Childress, who is benefiting from Iverson’s single-handed breaking down of defenses to post his best shooting numbers ever; and, of course, Greek and European basketball.
The only loser here might be Brandon Jennings, a guy from whom the international spotlight was swiped away early by Iverson-to-Greece. Jennings, he of the so-so results with Lottomatica Roma and a marvelous start with the Milwaukee Bucks, might be getting a lot more media attention right now, were it not for the “Iverson European Experiment.” And Olympiacos’ competition. And possibly the 31 NBA teams who reportedly believed A.I. couldn’t play any more.
Sure, sure, there may yet prove to be a downside to Iverson’s attention- and ball-demanding; one could even argue that both Barcelona and Panathinaikos – with the second-best NBA-leading acquisition of the off-season in Linas Kleiza leading the way – have better teams man-for-man. In the grander scheme of things, though, Iverson made the best choice for all parties this summer in taking the gutsy leap overseas: short of a Artest-like melee, the notoriety of any action Iverson makes playing for Olympiacos will inestimably help the team, two basketball leagues and, certainly not least of all, the already-redeemed Iverson.
Talk about your critical decisions, a move that could have gone either way. Now, of course, it’s a bit difficult to imagine Iverson having chosen the opposite. I mean, seriously, can you imagine the man coming off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies instead of playing for a Continental champion? Unbelievable.