I was near the end of my journey home this past weekend, and considering the circumstances, I was in a pretty good mood. Up at 6 a.m., catch a bus to LAX, and then fly all day. And all just for my little brother’s high-school graduation.
Sitting in the Phoenix airport, I noticed a lady reading the sports section of the Arizona Republic. Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson was coming off his 52-point thrashing of the Raptors, so I expected a big story about his second 50-point game of the series. Sure enough, the story was there, detailing his abuse of Toronto.
But it was another article that caught my eye. It was a little inset in the main story, with the title, “Iverson Should Dress Part.” Now, I almost knew what the author, Pedro Gomez, was going to say, but I went and bought the paper just so I could read the column anyway.
Reading the story, my worst fears were realized. Gomez complained that Iverson doesn’t carry himself in the manner of an NBA Most Valuable Player – that he doesn’t “look the part.” But what really got to me was the reasoning Gomez had behind his argument. “Not once while winning any of his five MVP awards did Michael Jordan appear in anything less than a designer suit,” Gomez wrote. “He looked the part.”
Before I go any further, lets get one thing straight: Allen Iverson is no Michael Jordan. Just because Iverson has won a single MVP award and a couple of scoring titles does not mean that Iverson is the answer to His Airness. Let’s wait until Iverson wins four more MVP’s, or perhaps a single NBA championship before we start making those comparisons.
After Gomez finished with the M.J. angle, he went on to another reason why Iverson should wear a suit and tie after the game, this one even more ridiculous than the first. Gomez argued, perhaps correctly, that Iverson is turning away NBA fans with his attire – NBA fans that are mostly white, middle- to upper-class males. But Gomez then went as far to suggest that Iverson should change his outfit to keep these fans from leaving the game. Can you imagine that – proposing that Iverson dress differently to please the NBA’s white fans! Gomez argues that it would be for the good of the game and save the NBA’s image, but who cares?
It’s time to realize that this is no longer the NBA of M.J., Larry, and Magic. Long shorts have replaced the old time tighty-whiteys (unless your name is John Stockton), Showtime has been replaced by Shaq and Kobe, and the Celtics don’t even play in the Garden anymore.
The NBA is now filled with young, brash talent not afraid to be themselves. And while their dress (and actions) off the court may be questionable, their performances on the court are not. Iverson and Vince Carter just staged a playoff duel evoking the memories of Jordan vs. Bird and Magic vs. Larry, but that doesn’t mean we’re back in the 80s. I know this may be hard for some to accept, but Larry and Magic are gone forever, as are the run ‘n’ gun days of the NBA. We’re entering a new stage in the development of the NBA, and I think the league is looking just fine (Iverson included).