14 year NBA veteran Allen Iverson spent part of last season with Turkish side Be?ikta?, an experience A.I. calls “a great opportunity”, while his long time business manager likens it to hitting rock bottom (“it opened Allen’s eyes to the fact that there’s more important things out there than basketball”). Promising Slam’s Tzvi Tweseky, “I want to finish my career out in the NBA, if that’s possible.. in any capacity”, Iverson reflects on his early days in the league.

SLAM: Even if it impacted you negatively, you never conformed.

AI: And a lot of that’s a bittersweet feeling. A lot of those things make me feel good, but I think I took a beating for them. I’m not bitter about it, ’cause I think I helped people feel like they could be themselves. I took that beating, and now you see guys being whoever they want to be. Besides Dennis Rodman, you didn’t see nobody with tattoos and all that stuff. Now you see kids having a million tattoos and able to be themselves.

I had my cornrows; now you see police officers with cornrows. That used to be the look of the suspect [laughs]. Now you see everybody with them: boxers, football players, you know what I mean? So that part of it makes me feel good because I know I had to take a beating for other guys to be accepted the way they are.

SLAM: Remember that first time you wore braids to the Rookie Game?

AI: Yup.

SLAM: What was that like?

AI: [Laughs] People thought it was thug-like. The first few people who saw it thought a basketball player with it was a thug, and that’s totally what I’m not. I ain’t no gangsta. Only tough guy I am is on the basketball court. Off the basketball court, I’m a husband and a father. That [other stuff] ain’t what I am. It was just, you know, the way the world is. The world at times, the way you perceive people and the way you look at people, you got to know who the person is. A lot of people think I’m the biggest asshole in the world, until they meet me and talk to me, because it’s a perception. Then they find out totally different.