The billing has all of the shine from an NBA All-Star Game circa 1997.
Superstar names: Dennis Rodman, Clyde Drexler, Shawn Kemp and Allen Iverson to name a few.
Superstar games: a two-week promotional basketball tour in China pitting the former NBA all-stars against Beijing Shougang, Shanxi Zhongyu and China Olympic National Team.
But instead of this being the mid-season classic of the NBA, Rodman, Drexler, Kemp and Iverson are taking part NBA Legends Tour that also features some D-League talent in Mo Charlo (Reno) Darnell Lazare(Fort Wayne), Marcus Dove, and Stefhon Hannah (Dakota Wizards) , Osiris Eldridge (Bakersfield), Drew Neitzel (Texas Legends), and Stephen Graham (Fort Wayne), and has also turned into something more than an overseas exhibition series.
China has become a recruiting party and perhaps next destination for Iverson to resume his playing career in the Chinese Basketball Association.
The Shanxi Brave Dragons — who formerly employed Stephon Marbury — and the Foshan Longlions, have reportedly been in talks with Iverson’s agent, who is asking $1 million to $1.5 million for Iverson’s services.
“I think he would be rejuvenated if he played in China. He would love the fans here,” said Marbury, who was Iverson’s teammate on the bronze medal-winning team at the 2004 Athens Olympics and go back even further than that.
Both were drafted in the 1996 NBA Draft — Iverson first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and Marbury, selected fourth by the Milwaukee Bucks.
A cultural icon, Marbury would know all about transforming into a reclamation project. He not only rediscovered his game playing in China, but also some soul searching along the way as he led the Beijing Ducks to a CBA title this season.
But can Iverson find the same success in the CBA?
Does he have the same quickness, stamina and desire that drove him to become an 11-time NBA All-Star, NBA MVP and collect four scoring titles in his NBA career?
“He has not played for a year against anyone with that ability, so he’s not that good right now,” said Legends head coach Brendan Suhr of Iverson’s current abilities.
“It’s very hard (for him) to all of the sudden play against tremendous competition like the Ducks presented. I think he’s going to get better and when he makes shots he will get more confident.”
There’s a good chance Iverson’s confidence has slipped some since last playing in January 2011 with Besiktas (Turkey), where a right calf muscle injury led to his departure. He’s been trying to find work ever since. Back in February, Iverson was in talks with teams in Puerto Rico about a possible return and even reportedly fielded offers from Venezuela, Iran, and the Philippines.
Knowing Iverson’s well-documented financial troubles (having the word “broke” associated with one of the games most talented point guards is beyond sad), is taking his talents to China all about the payday or is he still playing for the love of the game?
That’s the question many wonder about “The Answer”.
“If he could work out as hard as Marbury did, and recover up to 70 percent of his full strength, he will definitely be able to shine again in the CBA. It would be good news for the league,” added the Beijing Ducks’ head coach, Min Lulei, on Iverson’s CBA future.
The NBA Legends tour continues on May 9th against Shanxi Zhongyu and concludes on May 11th versus China Olympic National Team. That also means two more games on the Iverson recruiting trail in China.
It may be 10 years since Iverson’s classic “we talkin’ about practice” rant from his days with the Philadelphia 76ers.
But these days with Allen Iverson, “we talkin’ about playing in China”.