Jason Boone is a friend of the Dime family, but more relevant to this space, a center/power forward for BG GÃ¶ttingen of the German pro basketball league. Last week, Jason’s team played Besiktas Cola Turka â€” better known as Allen Iverson‘s squad — in the first of two schedule EuroCup games. Jason checked in from overseas to chronicle one of the biggest games of his career against one of the biggest names in the sport:
*** *** ***
“Picture being broke without no pot to piss in / Then suddenly your idols is your competition / Used to be God to me / Slowly losing my religion.” — J.Cole, “See World”
As I hit the pause button on my iPod, that was the last line I remember hearing. I’ve been playing his new mixtape (Friday Night Lights) nonstop since it became available and can empathize with what he’s rapping about. J.Cole, like Drake, is a up-and-coming musician who talks about competing against guys he once looked up to.
Coming off of a big win in our first EuroCup game against Tony Parker‘s French team, ASVEL, we were in the driver’s seat hosting this Turkish team from Istanbul. But more recently, coming off of a tough loss in our domestic German league against our local rival, the Braunschweig New Yorker Phantoms, we had a bitter taste in our mouths and a anxious feeling in our stomachs. Sounds like the recipe of a team in need of a win.
While walking out onto the court to begin my warm-up, it was a very different feel. Maybe because it was our first “home” EuroCup game (though on a neutral site). Maybe because I had just played two of my best games and felt added pressure to keep it up. Or it could have been the fact that any second from now, Allen Iverson would be 70 feet away from me warming up on the other end of the court.
At this point (more than an hour before tip-off) there were no fans allowed in the arena, just a few people from the German press and the Turkish TV crews. It’s typical for me to start my pregame warm-up with some jump rope near half-court and begin to size up my opponent. I like to see how they warm-up, how they communicate with each other and how serious they take getting ready for the game. And on this day, I was going to do exactly that — I was just simply trying to time it with the entrance of No. 4.
Sixty-six minutes before tip-off, it happened: Iverson walked out onto the court. Everyone on my team knew it, whether they were paying attention or not, because all of a sudden you heard this collective “whoa” and the sound of cameras flashing everywhere. I almost felt like I was on the red carpet at an award show, and they weren’t even there to see me. Iverson’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect, either, because as soon as we got over the initial shock of being on the same court as him and the press people had all finished their snapshots, the clock struck 60 minutes and the arena doors opened to the public. Turkish and German fans alike immediately went to the Besiktas side of the court and continued to take pictures, Flip videos and iPhone recordings of Iverson trotting through a three-man-weave.
At this point, no matter how focused you were trying to be, it was obvious we were playing against a team — and a player — that EVERYONE had come out to see. The last time I was even remotely close to being in this situation was last season, when our Russian opponent, Krasnodar, signed Gerald Green and I kept peeking down to their side to see if he was exhibiting contest-worthy dunks during layup lines. And just as Green never dunked that day, A.I. never did much of anything I expecting during warm-ups. I’m not exactly sure what I expected out of the 35-year-old, but whatever it was, I didn’t get it. It wouldn’t be normal for him to get out there and cross people up during warm-ups, would it? How about a trademark step-back fadeaway? Probably not, right? But it just seemed that whether his team was doing layups or calisthenics or just shooting around, Iverson was never really moving at full speed. Maybe that’s how former NBA guys do it, but I couldn’t help but think he was a bit distracted by the amount of attention he was getting. That said, this is the same guy who has played in the Staples Center during the NBA Finals and at The Palace at Auburn Hills in the NBA playoffs — this very well could have been the equivalent of a high school JV game for him. But not to us. I couldn’t read his mind and didn’t get a chance to ask him, but I’m sticking with the theory that A.I. was in awe of how intense the GÃ¶ttingen fans were and the creativity of the posters they were holding up. My personal favorite was the section of fans with the k1x signs that read: “Yo A.I. This Sure As Hell Ain’t PRACTICE.”
After warm-ups, the rosters were announced. In European play they don’t just announce the starters, but rather the entire team. Then they exchange small gifts as a sign of respect. We gave away these GÃ¶ttingen mini-flags, and in return we received Besiktas keychains (which I’m pretty sure my athletic trainer stole). As the starters walked out onto the court to shake hands, I noticed how small Iverson actually is. Jadakiss said, “6-feet, 165 / Call iso anytime he want and split ya five / Play to win he don’t play for stats / Brought to the hood to the game and they love him for the braids and tats.” But honestly, I think Iverson is about 5-10, maybe 155 pounds.
A.I. walked right next to me just before the jump ball, but then there was a slight problem resetting the clock that caused the game to be delayed about 30 seconds (which will become a very important factor later on). That gave me a chance to look back at the scorers table to see what was going on, and to again notice everyone in the building flashing shots of Allen Iverson and I standing next to each other. (If anyone reading this has one of those pictures, feel free to find me on Facebook.)
Finally the ball goes up, and our bouncing bean of a power forward wins the tap and hits it right to me. I thought about turning on the jets at half-court and blowing past Allen Iverson for a two-handed dunk … but decided to give it to our point guard and run our first offensive call.
After a miss by us and a miss by them, we call a play where I’m supposed to come up and set a screen for our guard. The guard that Allen Iverson is checking. As I lull their big man to sleep and sprint up to level A.I., he catches me out of the corner of his eye and tries to go underneath. Bad idea. I turn and hit him with a good shot as our PG comes off wide open. Their big man, who is recovering late, steps up and our PG drops it off to me as I’m rolling to the basket. Here’s my chance. Second offensive possession of the game, and I’m going to dunk on Allen Iverson. I’m thinking to myself, “This is going to be an awesome Facebook picture,” and, “Which way is the camera facing?” I’m also wondering if I’ll be able to wrap my legs around him after I flush this sure dunk and whether or not this scene will end up as a thread on the site that my boys and I started (ApolloKidz.com). Fortunately for him — unfortunately for me — he stops after he is hit and I uncharacteristically bobble the ball for a second, turning my chance to posterize this veteran into a normal left-handed layup.
During the next 20 minutes, Allen Iverson had a few flashes of greatness and proved Jadakiss wasn’t lying when he said, “He will blow by you fast / Penetrate and dish it off or let it go high off the glass.” He converted on a blow-by of one of our defenders (I won’t mention any names) and dropped off a nice dime to one of their big men as I stepped up. He also hit a running floater high off the glass over my outstretched arm. Still, our team was up 45-34 at halftime, and I took the personal battle with 13 first-half points to A.I.’s nine points.
Now I would never dare to badmouth a referee, especially in a public setting like this, but I feel that in the second half Allen Iverson got some “superstar” calls — some of which he deserved, but others seemed to come just because of his name. I’ve attempted to referee New York University intramural basketball, and it’s not an easy task. So if it’s a bang-bang call and you side with Iverson every once in awhile, it’s OK. But I swore it seemed like he drew 12 fouls in the second half. At the end of the game, their team shot 39 free throws to our 23.
With Iverson’s team clawing their way back into the game, the fans on both sides were getting a little testy. At one point during the fourth quarter, I saw a Turkish guy heading over into the GÃ¶ttingen fan section and he didn’t look too pleasant. After some obscenities and some middle-finger waving, he was forcibly removed from the area. Coach calling for me to re-enter the game quickly put my attention back on the court, but on Allen Iverson’s next drive I was whistled for my 5th and final foul. When I went out it was GÃ¶ttingen 76, Besiktas 75 with just over two minutes remaining. After that my emotions would be on a roller coaster ride, as their were four lead changes down the stretch.
With 43 seconds left and the score tied at 81-81, Iverson gets the ball. He drives the lane and goes up for a layup, but my teammate Trent Meacham (former Illinois standout) steps in to take the charge, and the referees actually call it. (Like I said, no badmouthing from me.) We come down on offense, miss a three-pointer, and foul Mire Chatman on the rebound. The EuroCup vet goes to the line and calmly knocks down both of his FT’s giving Besikitas a two-point lead. On our ensuing possession, guard Kyle Bailey (Santa Clara) gets a full head of steam and drives directly by Iverson for a game-tying layup. Now there are 19 seconds left, 83-83, and Besiktas calls a timeout to draw up the last shot of the game. Or so they thought.
Now, we play a 24-second shot clock just like the NBA, and there were 19 seconds on the game clock following Bailey’s bucket that tied it up. So I’m not sure why, when Besiktas got the ball, there were 19 seconds on the game clock and 16 seconds on the shot clock. But there was, so Chatman did what most people would do in the situation — points to the clock for 12 seconds and then looks off Iverson to shoot a running three-pointer. (What’s the matter? You wouldn’t do that?) The referees were looking at the clock just like our coach was, just like their coach was, just like all of the players were, and they didn’t blow the whistle. So after Chatman missed his rushed shot, there were still three seconds left in the game. Trent Meacham got the rebound for us, and instead of paying attention to him, Besiktas found it better to run to the referee and complain, giving Trent a clear lane for a final shot. But how far could he actually get in just under three seconds? Allen Iverson and company would soon find out.
Seems that Trent was fast enough to get from three-point line to three-point line in three dribbles and two long steps. As he released the ball with under a second left, I stood up and watched as it fell straight through the net. GAME OVER! Trent Meacham with the buzzer-beater to seal the victory! Or no? Was it a good shot? Was it a three-pointer? Was the shot waived off? These are things that all were unclear right as the game ended, but we mobbed center court as if everything would work out in our favor. And after getting hit with some full beer cups from the Turkish side of the stands, we settled down long enough to shake their hands. At this point, Iverson was already walking to the locker room and their coaches were still complaining at the scorers table.
I heard through the grapevine that Besiktas was protesting the outcome of the game and that, worst case scenario, we may need to play it over again. But I’ve also heard that watching too much TV makes you go blind, 2Pac is still alive, and JFK was shot with a Magic Bullet. You can believe what you want. All I know is that, as it stands right now, we are 2-0 in our EuroCup group and I’m 1-0 lifetime against Allen Iverson. How many of you all can say that?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier today, it was announced that GÃ¶ttingen (Germany) and Besiktas (Turkey) will replay the entire game that ended under controversy due to the clock malfunction.