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Allen Iverson says he has lots of money

Allen IversonBulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The thinking has been that Allen Iverson is playing in Turkey because he's desperate for cash.

Robert Huber of Philadelphia Magazine flew to Istanbul to spend some time with Allen Iverson:

After practice, I follow him up into the empty stands. Later, people who know him well tell me that once he believes somebody is okay and not out to hurt him, the wall comes down, and that’s what I discover: a friendly guy.

He’s touched, he says, by how nice everyone has been in Turkey. “That was one of the biggest things coming to Istanbul,” he says. “Somebody wanted you.” When nobody in the NBA did. When it was the only overseas offer made in writing, $2 million a year for two years.

I kid him about going to Friday’s in Istanbul, though he doesn’t seem to see it as teasing:

“Man, listen,” he says. “I didn’t know that the Philly cheesesteak wrap was that good when I was in Philly. I tried them when I got out here and every day since then. Every day since then!”

Iverson is startling, both handsome and almost cherubic. His eyes, the irises and pupils very nearly the same color, are vast. He laughs easily. What was for a decade a hopeful wisp of a mustache on a boy is now several days’ growth in full Fu Manchu mode. I’m talking to somebody I don’t recognize: a 35-year-old man, calm and measured. And he really is willing to talk.

“Everybody is making a big deal out of the money and making $2 million -- what do people want me to do? Sit at home and just watch basketball, or play at the YMCA? I had to do what I had to do to continue playing basketball.”

Ah, yes, two big issues there. First, whether he is broke — a guy who has pocketed some $200 million in salary and endorsements over the past 15 years. It would emerge a week or so later that Iverson- is selling some of his collected memorabilia on eBay, and a lot of people are saying he’s gambled and partied and supported hangers-on to the point of going through all that cash. But Iverson laughs softly, high up in the Besiktas stands:

“I would be a damn fool to blow that much money and have five kids to take care of. One thing I do have, and I can say, is that I do have money. A lot.”