By: Mete Aktas / @MeteAktas76
With all the hoopla surrounding Allen Iverson’s highly anticipated Turkish Basketball League debut with Beşiktaş Cola Turka, maybe a lot of people were hoping for—if not expecting—a nostalgic, dominating A.I. performance against the defending champions and unbeaten leader of TBL, Fenerbahçe Ülker. But after 9 months of rust because of not playing and a huge dose of Ömer Onan’s suffocating defence, Iverson started his TBL career not with a bang but with a whimper.
In 19 minutes and 17 seconds of playing time, Iverson scored 2 points (1-6 FG), grabbed 4 boards and turned the ball over twice as Fenerbahce Ulker beat the ‘Black Eagles’ 67-74. With a packed crowd of fiery Beşiktaş fans chanting “Allen Iverson, the son of Beşiktaş” as the teams lined up for tip-off, Iverson quickly realized that he will be playing on a very different set of rules as the head of the officiating crew, Murat Biricik approached A.I and told him to get rid of his wristbands before the jumpball.
The barely 6’0 Allen Iverson was matched up against defensive specialist of Turkish basketball 6’5 Ömer Onan and Ömer basically just wore him out with his defence throughout the game. With Ömer guarding him like a shadow, Iverson took his first shot with 4 minutes remaining in the first period and finished the quarter with 0 points on 0/3 shooting. At the end of first period Fenerbahçe was leading 21-27. Iverson started the second quarter sitting on the bench and never got up until the start of the 3rd quarter. Again guarded by Ömer, Iverson simply was paralysed in the second half. He scored his only field goal in the game with about 2 minutes remaining in the third and when Ömer took a seat for just a minute due to a bleeding wound on his elbow. The score was tied at 53 at the end of the 3rd and Iverson was on the bench during the whole 4th period. Yes I know that he is not ready; yes I know that he did not play well; but still, it was a bad move by the head coach of Beşiktaş, Burak Bıyıktay, to keep Allen on the bench during crunch time when Beşiktaş was unable to create anything and let Fenerbahçe took over. The result: Beşiktaş: 67 Fenerbahçe: 74. After the game Bıyıktay said: “Allen is not ready. And even if he gets his wind back, he will never be the Allen Iverson we have watched in the NBA.”
I don’t know if Iverson has a translator, but when he hears what his coach said to the media I’m sure he will not be happy.
Mete Aktas is the Editor-in-Chief at NBA Türkiye Magazine, Turkey’s most widely read hoops publication. Follow him on Twitter @MeteAktas76.