The Little Engine That Almost Could

 The so-called Answer is taking up with a basketball team in Turkey, an appropriate destination, given where the Answer is at this diminishing point in his career.

Not that anyone ever knew the question that prompted the moniker.

Allen Iverson was defiant to the end, unwilling to compromise. He was the single-minded scorer who treated his teammates as mere accessories in his scoring chase. Iverson never tired of doing it his way, even as those around the NBA checked his birth certificate and plummeting numbers and grew tired of the connection.

That is to Iverson’s credit or bane, however you quantify his NBA career, as he leaves these shores. Cue Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

Iverson was the little engine that almost could. The almost occurred in 2001, when he led the 76ers to the NBA Finals, only to lose to the Lakers in five games. That was as close as Iverson ever would come to an NBA championship, one definition of greatness, and not always a fair one, if you consider those top-tier players who retired without ring.

Charles Barkley, the talker extraordinaire, is among the latter. His name is relevant to the subject after he pontificated on LeBron James abandoning Cleveland to complete his pact with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Barkley chased a ring, too, though near the end of his career.

Iverson is chasing nothing now, except a paycheck and perhaps a method to wean himself from a game that has defined him since his prep days in Hampton, Va. Myths are not burnished in Turkey.

If it’s any consolation, Iverson leaves the NBA as one of its best one-man bands ever. He was mentally tougher than Tracy McGrady and more ruthless than Pete Maravich.

If you could stick his spirit in the body of James, the Cavaliers already would have an NBA championship, and the prospect of playing with Wade and Bosh never would have been entertained beyond the idle-chatter stage. 

That is the legacy of the petulant one. His heart was considerably larger than his body.

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