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Iverson signs to play in Turkish Basketball League

NEW YORK - There is richness in Allen Iverson's gravelly baritone voice that is at odds with his current situation.

"I don't look at this as a bad or desperate situation," said Allen Iverson after signing to play in the Turkish Basketball League.
"I don't look at this as a bad or desperate situation," said Allen Iverson after signing to play in the Turkish Basketball League.Read moreMATT SLOCUM / Associated Press

NEW YORK - There is richness in Allen Iverson's gravelly baritone voice that is at odds with his current situation.

Inside Manhattan's refined St. Regis hotel on Friday, nothing - superficially at least - appeared amiss with Iverson: A sparkling watch encircled his left wrist, a gold chain dangled from his neck, and charm oozed from each word.

It wasn't until Iverson, 35, stood and posed with his newest jersey, one belonging not to an NBA team, but to Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League, that the moment truly came into focus.

Iverson is no longer an NBA star.

Iverson is no longer considered one of the world's best players.

Iverson will now be headlining in Europe, signed for two years and $4 million to play for a club that plays its home games at BJK Akatlar Arena, capacity 3,200, located in the heart of Istanbul.

Yes, Iverson's voice is still reminiscent of his glory years, but those days are quickly fading in the rearview mirror.

For 14 seasons, 10-plus with the 76ers, Iverson toured NBA arenas and dazzled with his killer crossover and never-say-die attitude. He was the 2001 NBA MVP, led that year's Sixers to the NBA Finals, and appeared in 11 NBA All-Star Games.

Besiktas owner Yildirim Demiroren said Iverson was "the first, greatest, NBA player who has a wonderful career in the states and then travels to Europe." And while a few NBA greats in decades past made that journey, there is a reason why Iverson is the first in this era.

He made mistakes.

Since his initial trade from the Sixers in 2006, Iverson first refused to come off the bench for the Detroit Pistons, then endured a very brief, controversy-riddled stint with the Memphis Grizzlies, and last season played only 25 games with the Sixers because of his daughter's health problems. He averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.6 turnovers while shooting 41.7 percent from the field.

Over the summer, his wife filed for divorce, and reports indicated his life was "spiraling out of control." Still, Iverson said on Friday that he was "surprised" no NBA team offered him a chance this season and declared he would use this opportunity to prove his game is still NBA-worthy. "I wouldn't put my talent behind anybody," he said. "I just believe in my talent and believe in myself.

"I made mistakes, so me not being on an NBA roster, and me being bad-mouthed throughout the league, a lot of things I have to own up to," Iverson explained. "A lot of those things were true. I made a lot of mistakes. And obviously it cost me.

"I don't think my basketball talents have anything to do with the reasons I'm not on an NBA roster right now. I think it has a lot to do with a lot of other things, negative things that I could have had a better grip on."

Iverson said that the health situation with his daughter had been resolved and that he and his wife were a "work in progress." "I think we'll move [to Turkey] all together," said Iverson, referring to his wife and five children. "I definitely can't stand being without them."

Despite reports that Iverson is struggling financially, having possibly frittered away the hundreds of millions of dollars he made in his career, he disputed money as a reason for his decision to continue playing.

"I'm at the point in my career where mentally and physically I know I can play basketball, and that's what I want to do," Iverson said. "If I can't play in the NBA but I want to play basketball, that's a decision I have to make. . . . My whole thing was being wanted and being accepted by a ball club, that was the most important thing to me: to be wanted."

Iverson called the game a "safe haven" for him, which was why he was willing to move halfway around the world to keep playing. He said that he was not yet in basketball shape but that he wasn't worried about his ability to get there.

Iverson never thought he'd find himself here - outcast of the NBA, signing a foreign deal - and he called the situation "crazy." "I don't look at this as a bad or desperate situation," Iverson said. "If NBA teams weren't interested in me and I wanted to continue to play basketball, then obviously I would have to look somewhere else."

After Iverson and Demiroren signed the papers, the pair stood and unfolded Iverson's Besiktas jersey, absorbing the flash of camera bulbs.

The jersey was two sizes too big for Iverson's wispy frame, and there was a sponsor's logo, Krispi, that was as foreign as the locale to which Iverson is traveling.

The entire moment was surreal, like seeing a movie star mopping floors.

"I wouldn't say sad," Iverson said. "I'm playing basketball. Maybe it's not my first option to play overseas, but I wouldn't say there's anything sad about this. A lot of guys don't play in the NBA the number of years I played, or accomplished any of the things I have, or experienced the things I've experienced. I don't look at it as sad."