Cornrows, amazing talent, bad attitudes, incredible skills, poor professional habits and wacky endings to their careers – what’s the difference between Randy Moss and Allen Iverson at this point? Both tantalized us for years with glimpses of greatness, flashes of finesse and words of the weird. When Moss announced his retirement on Aug. 1, he went out via the backdoor, with no news conference; no warning; no nothing. Almost identical to Iverson, Moss’ stat line in his last full season in the league read like that of an unrecognizable bum. One catch for 13 yards in his last game, three DNPs (did not play) before that game and another one-catch performance previous to that game.

It was almost as if Moss basically quit before making it official, giving up on the sport that made him a flashy millionaire and a household name. Same with Iverson, whose overloaded ego wouldn’t allow for a reserve role in his dying basketball years, his last seasons in the NBA were not that of an all time great. Two of the best athletes America has ever seen (in any sport) were basically ground to dust and forced out of their leagues due to bad attitudes, poor word choices and unwillingness to play second fiddle to any player. Moss’ retirement from the NFL seems almost childish in a way; more along the lines of the “I’m taking my ball and going home” approach. He was reportedly in freakish shape and ready for a bounce-back campaign but when free agency didn’t start first at his doorstep, it was a backhanded slap in the face for the man formerly known as “the freak.”

For players who have been lauded their whole careers for their outstanding physical traits, waking up one summer morning to the revelation that they’re just not that important any more can be quite shocking. What’s worse is when they realize that it’s not even their diminished skills that makes them an afterthought but their own teenage attitudes that have blacklisted them from the sports world. There are guys in the NFL and NBA who have lasted a full decade longer in their leagues than Iverson and Moss but have been nowhere near as talented. The only difference being the mindset. You have some players who are willing to do anything for their team and some players who think their team is supposed to be willing to do anything for them.

In the cases of Moss and Iverson, the outcome is pretty sad – honestly. I guess coaches grow tired of the self-centered bad boy image after a while. Despite Hall of Fame capabilities, you can only pay a player millions of dollars so long before their attitude wears on you. At this point in his career, the once-great Iverson couldn’t buy his way back into basketball. There may still be hope for Moss, but after a failed three-team tour last season, maybe the time has come to finally sit this one out, permanently.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO