Former NBA star Allen Iverson plans to have a growth removed from his right leg in the United States and intends to rejoin his Turkish team in time for the playoffs.
Iverson, who signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Turkish team Besiktas this fall after no NBA team showed any interest, had tests on the calf three weeks ago to find the cause of persistent pain, his business manager and longtime friend, Gary Moore said Wednesday.
An MRI originally showed a tiny shadow between the two bones in Iverson's lower leg, but he continued to play. When the pain worsened, a second MRI was taken in the last few days and showed the shadow had doubled in size to a half-penny. Moore said the shadow could be anything from a lesion to a cyst to a tumor.
Iverson, who was en route back to the U.S. and unavailable for comment, hopes to find out by having surgery within the next few days.
"Two things have to happen," Moore said. "First, that lesion has to come out. Second, it has to be tested to see if it is malignant or benign."
Besiktas spokesman Kursat Kaplan told The Associated Press on Wednesday the team would assess Iverson's future after another MRI this week. Iverson, though, Moore said, is proceeding as if the shadow is benign and expects to be back on the court for Besiktas in four to six weeks.
"People need to know that Allen is and always has been a fighter," Moore told The AP by phone. "He's got a battle ahead of him."
Moore said this is something that neither he nor Iverson ever expected could happen.
"He's a freak of nature the way he has played through everything," Moore said. "But this was the most pain he's ever been in. Remember when he took that knee from Shaquille O'Neal, 160 pounds going up against 350? The pain in his leg is 10 times worse than that. This might be the biggest challenge he's ever had."
However, Moore denied Turkish reports that said Iverson planned to retire.
"It's not a misquote, it's an outright lie, because he didn't talk to anybody," Moore said. "He has every hope of playing again."
Iverson, an 11-time NBA All-Star, has said he's happy with his new career in Turkey, though his start has been mixed since playing his first game in November.
Moore said Iverson, the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2001, last played Saturday.
"This is the most pain he's ever felt from any injury he's had," Moore said to The AP. "He's been in tremendous agony."
Iverson spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia before bouncing through Denver and Detroit, ending up in Memphis last season.
He played only three games before returning for a second stint with the Sixers, where he averaged 13.9 points in 25 games. He took a leave of absence toward the end of the season to deal with some family matters, which he said have been resolved.
When no NBA team was interested in him, Iverson was wooed by Besiktas executive board member Seref Yalcin to continue his career overseas.
"He's enjoying the beauty of the country, the beauty of the people," Moore told The AP. "No one has any expectations of him other than what he gives on the basketball court. No one cares about what he did five, six years ago."
Ric Bucher covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.