The Evolution of 3: Allen Iverson

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 with No comments
Draft Day 1996
June 6th 2001, the day before his 26th birthday, Allen Iverson took the court of the Staples Center and played in his first NBA Finals game against the favored and defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers who were undefeated in the playoffs thus far.  Iverson who played for the Philadelphia 76ers at that time had just finished two straight grueling 7 game series with the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.  Five years earlier on the night of June 26th 1996, the NBA held it's 50th player draft and the 76ers "Sixers" drafted Iverson with the first overall pick.  The 1996 NBA draft is considered by many to be one of the best player drafts of all time as it featured Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Marcus Camby, and Antoine Walker, I rank it third only behind the 1984 draft that featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton and the 2003 draft which featured Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.  Iverson showed no fear at his finals debut and proved to the casual fans what die hard NBA fans of the time already knew; he was the most dominate little man of his era and arguably the leagues most popular player at the time.  By the time the game was over, Iverson had out dueled dominate big man Shaquille O'Neal 48 to 44 as he led his Sixers to an 107-101 overtime win and ended the Lakers undefeated streak.  For one night the Sixers shocked the world and Iverson was all the rage, but eventual he and the Sixers fell to the Lakers experience as they lost the next four games.  During the series Iverson averaged 35.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game in the losing effort further cementing his place as a prime time performer, the franchise player of the Sixers.  Ask yourselves this question:  How did Allen Iverson get there?

The Fight for Freedom

Should the story begin with Iverson having to miss days during high school to take care of his infant sister while his drug addicted mother routinely left the family, the loss of seven friends by violence when he was a teen or should it begin during the time that the Iverson home was plagued by a sewage leak that caused those inside to walk around wearing boots to avoid contact.  We're going to start on Valentine's Day of 1993; this was the evening that produced perhaps the most uneasy and important night of his life.  That evening at a Virginian bowling alley, a brawl broke out between two factions, one African American and the other Caucasian.  Words turned to punches, punches turned to chairs being thrown and Iverson then a high school junior was singled out as the one responsible for hitting Barbara Steele over the head with a chair and causing her to have a concussion and requiring six stitches to close an open wound.  Iverson testified that a Caucasian bowler directed a racial slur at him, they exchanged words and then Iverson left the premises.  A Caucasian employee who worked at the bowling alley testified that he saw Iverson hit Steele with the chair and that Iverson also threw the chair at him.  Iverson was the top high school basketball player in the nation at the same time he was being tried in the courts for the alleged attack.  The town of Hampton Virginia was split down racial lines, African Americans supported Iverson while the Caucasians despised him and the local media didn't help the matter but instead the media continued to add fuel to the fire forcing the citizens of Hampton to choose sides daily.  Iverson was convicted as an adult of the felony charge of maiming by mob.  The charge of maiming by mob was put in place years prior to combat the lynchings that were taking place in Virginia.  Iverson was sentenced to to 15 years in prison for the crime with 10 years suspended.  After spending four months at the New Port News City Farm correctional facility, Iverson was granted clemency the acting Governor of Virginia Douglas Wilder.  I like to think of it as the NBA career that almost never happened.  Fair or not 61% of felons re offend because the system doesn't allow for much success, most employers won't think twice about hiring them and they usually fall back into a pattern of crime if they don't have a stable support system in place.  The next summer after visiting Iverson and deciding not to recruit him, legendary George Town University Head Coach John Thompson, heard a passionate plea from Iverson's mother Ann.


"Please. Save him. Save my son's life."


Big John Thompson and Allen
From 1972 to 1999 "Big" John Thompson Jr. standing at 6'10 and weighing close to 300 pounds was the face of the University of Georgetown basketball program.  During his reign he compiled a winning percentage of 71 and coached the National Championship Team in 1984, led by Patrick Ewing.  The most impressive thing about Big John was he empahisis he put on education as well as basketball.  Only two players left his program early for the NBA and in total under his leadership, 26 of his players were drafted to the NBA.  Ann Iverson knew that Allen needed a dominate male figure in his life since the one he'd grown to love Michael Freeman wasn't the best example.  He fathered Allen's two younger sisters and sold crack cocaine to support Ann and her family which caused him to live a life in and out of jail constantly during Allen's childhood.  After hearing the plea from Allen's mother Big John decided to to just what she'd asked of him, to save her sons life.  Under the guidance and support of Big John, Allen in just two years owned the all time career scoring average for Georgetown by scoring 23 points per game per contest.  It was then that the 76ers came calling.

Tale of two sons!

And the winner really is?
We all know the stellar career NBA career that Allen Iverson accumulated which started and ended with the 76ers, but Iverson meant much more to the NBA than even he could have imagined.  After the departure of Michael Jordan in 1998 there was a huge void that needed to be filled in the NBA marketing machine.  The basketball Gods chose Philadelphia born Kobe Bryant as the heir to the Jordan throne, but the streets said something different.  Just as the Fab Five of Michigan urshered in individuality into college basketball a few years earlier, Allen Iverson introduced street swag on and off the court beginning with one of the most famous crossovers of all time.  He led the charge of the tattooed corn rolled NBA player that the streets welcomed while the league misunderstood.  Bryant may have been born in Philadelphia but their adoptive son, Allen Iverson was the most celebrated player in the NBA post Jordan for some time.  On the outside you had the clean cut "safe" choice for fans to take their kids to see and idolize and then on the other side you had the tatooed "thug" who didn't want to "practice" and was someone that you would warn your kids about....my loyal readers will know that this is where I'll insert the look!  Kobe Bryant didn't need the gigantic push that he received from the NBA; his game was strong enough to speak for itself, and instead of creating more fans for Bryant the push did the opposite as it created more hate for Bryant and more love for Iverson.  Kobe was destined for the NBA since birth with his dad Joe Bryant having played 8 seasons in the NBA in the 70's and 80's.  When his dad decided to finish his playing career overseas Kobe was there for the ride and enjoyed growing up aided by an affluent lifestyle in Europe before returning to the states to attend high school back in Philadelphia.  While Kobe had to work hard on his game as a child, Allen had to work hard on life itself.  This is what made the night of June 6th 2001 special, Iverson, the unheralded MVP of the NBA had to face the "Second Coming" whom at that time wasn't even the best player on his own team but he was the media's darling.  It was more than an NBA Finals match-up it was a sutle culture clash.  The Haves vs the Have Nots, Good vs Evil, Duke vs Anything Hip, and dare I say the House Dwellers vs the Cotton Field hands but finally it was the NBA's Image vs the grit and the truth of the Street.  The fans would have their say however, at the 2002 NBA All-Star game held in Philadelphia, the fans cheered their adoptive son and booed their native son heavily while he accepted the games MVP honor "7.32 Mark".



The End Game?

The 76ers didn't do everything in their power to take care of Allen on the court and surround him with great talent often choosing to surround him with washed up parts and unproven young talent who are now just beginning to mature into consistent NBA players.  After ten seasons of leaving his heart and soul on the court for the 76ers, they traded him to the Denver Nuggets.  From there Iverson was traded to the Detroit Pistons and after a clash with the Pistons, Iverson signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, played three games and left that organization citing the desire to retire.  So why so many trades in the last few years for Allen?  Why the disrespect for a former MVP and leader of a generation of NBA players?  Denver, Detroit, Memphis, they all wanted to tame Allen, control him but they all did in the worst way possible.  They forgot to love him first and that's all Allen ever wanted, he just needed to be loved by the fans, the coaches and the organization and the the last three teams failed to do that.  They failed to understand that the Answer, A.I. was still Bubbachuck at heart.  Feeling no love from the NBA, Iverson decided to retire from the game and on November 25th released this statement to Stephan A Smith.

"I would like to announce my plans to retire from the National Basketball Association. I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn’t help my team the way that I was accustomed to. However, that is not the case.


I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.


Stepping away from the game will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and kids. This is a reward that far exceeds anything that I’ve ever achieved on the basketball court. I have prayed for this day and I see it as my greatest gift.


I want to thank the people of Reebok International Ltd., for always allowing me to be me and for supporting me my whole career through all the ups and downs. I have enjoyed 13 wonderful seasons in the NBA, and I am grateful.


I want to first acknowledge my fans everywhere, who have been with me throughout my entire career. Without you, there would be no me. You should all know that I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!


To Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, you guys gave me the vision to play the game that will be forever in my heart.


To my Mom, who encouraged and inspired me to play every day, and to all of my family and friends who stood by me from the beginning. Thank you!


To my high school coach, Michael Bailey, Coach John Thompson at Georgetown University, Coach Larry Brown and to all of my other coaches, teammates, administrators, owners and staff who’ve been a part of my career, Thank you as well!


I’d like to give a special thanks to the people of Memphis. I never played a home game for your beloved Grizzlies, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity given me by a great owner in Michael Heisley, and the support of the city. I wish the Memphis Grizzlies’ organization all of the success that the game has to offer.


And finally, to the city of Philadelphia: I have wonderful memories of my days in a Sixers’ uniform. To Philly fans, thank you. Your voice will always be music to my ears."


God Bless all of you,


ALLEN IVERSON


Can you say crossed over and J'd MJ?
He came into the league with a bang and he left the league in the opposite of which he came, but in a very classy way.  News of the retirement sent shock waves throughout the NBA but a calming tone soon came from a voice very familiar to Allen, from 1997-2003 Larry Brown and Iverson endured during a Love Hate relationship of mostly love and it was under Brown's direction that Iverson had his most productive string of  seasons.  After hearing the news of the retirement, Brown who at that time was coaching the Charlotte Bobcats was interviewed and the love for Allen was clear and present.  He thought Allen had retired due to the fact that no team in the NBA wanted to sign him, give him a chance and love him the way Iverson needed.  


"Think about it: You're an MVP in the All-Star Game and an MVP in the league, scored over 20,000 points, you still know you can play, and to not have everybody jump up, it's a pretty humbling thing. But he can play."


"Anybody that knows him understands how much he loves to play."


Make up Sex?....Yeah I said it!


Have you ever been in a passionate relationship and then suddenly a disagreement turns into a terrible argument?  If so then you may know what comes next most of the time....the break up!  They're unavoidable and it happens, break ups happen everyday in relationships and marriages.  In some situations the best part of the break up is the make up sex.  If done right, make up sex can solve all problems and nothing is better than telling your loved one that you're sorry with raw, primal, animalistic sex after both parties have fully submitted their soul to each other.  If done incorrectly, make up sex can lead to dysfunction and more bitter feelings about the end more so now than in the beginning, bad make up sex can break the mentally strong.  I said that to say this, The Sixers in depesperate need of a guard after Lou Williams broke his jaw, contacted Allen Iverson and spoke of a reunion.  Soon the city and it's greatest adoptive son engaged in a session of make up sex with Iverson signing with the Sixers on December 2nd 2009 for the remainder of the season.  






After playing in 25 games while averaging 13.9 points and 4.1 assist per game, Iverson left the Sixers to attend to the needs of his family and his ill daughter Messiah.  Instead of embracing the fact that Iverson relished in the love of the Sixers fan and had a better relationship with the Philidelphia media, the Sixers closed the door on any possibility of another reunnion after Lou Williams returned from injury.  It was the bad make up sex and Iverson was left out in the cold again, out of work and no love from the NBA.  


Down and Out?


On March 7th 2010, Stephan A Smith posted this article on philly.com:  Iverson Needs More than a Prayer.  


His closest confidant asked the basketball world to pray for Allen Iverson, as if no one has all these years while seeing this train wreck coming.


He acted as if the former 76ers star hadn't needed a significant dose of prayer, luck, and divine intervention until now.
And as the rest of us are forced to bear witness to a disintegration, the rapid decline of a career clearly lacking nurturing, the time has arrived for Iverson's inner circle to stand up and be counted, to provide some semblance of tough love - by any means necessary.
Unless those people are willing to write his epitaph instead.


Just listening to Gary Moore, Iverson's business manager and the person he trusts most, they may be doing so very soon.
Allen Iverson is in trouble, folks, deep trouble. The combination of alcohol and gambling - and a once-promising career in tatters because of the first two - won't culminate in anything short of disaster if help does not arrive in short order.
If numerous NBA sources are telling the truth - and there's no reason to believe they'd do otherwise in a situation of this magnitude - Iverson will either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away.
Moore, ever the protector, would never admit as much, of course. But that's part of the problem, isn't it?
Iverson's wife, Tawanna, having hired some high-powered Atlanta attorney and filed for a divorce last week, does not help matters. Nor does it help that she's already separated from her husband, with custody of their five kids and seeking both alimony and child support.
When you consider Iverson's well-known penchant for alcohol and his banishment from casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City, if disgust and sadness don't come to mind, at least one question does:
Where is Pat Croce when you need him? Or Iverson's coach at Georgetown, John Thompson?
Where is the person with the ideal combination of compassion and toughness who would shelter Iverson at the same time he's holding his feet to the flames? Someone whose vested interest is in Iverson's well-being, someone who doesn't need his money or cachet?
In other words, someone he does not have in his camp right now. Or someone who has an impact, and needs to utilize it.
"I think there's one guy, and his name is John Thompson," said former Temple basketball coach John Chaney, noted for saving souls as much as winning basketball games throughout his illustrious career. "John is the one guy who'll have a chance of slowing this train wreck down, who could wrap his arms around Iverson and have an impact, because clearly it has not been done. But there's still this one question: Will [Iverson] listen?
"See, too many of our athletes give lip service when someone is trying to help them. And as soon as you leave them, they find themselves dealing with self-preservation and denial. It's an athlete's biggest problem to overcome.
"When you were young and vital, there were a lot of hit songs on that side of the record," Chaney said. "With Iverson, there are no more hit songs on that side of the record. You've got to accept the fact that you've danced and boogied. Now that they've flipped it over and ain't nobody dancing anymore, it's over!
"The ball is deflated. So now you have to find another life for yourself."
Iverson's NBA life may be over, but he and the folks he keeps close to him don't seem to realize it.
Take the more than $200 million he has earned in his career, subtract Uncle Sam's take, alimony, child support for five kids, and no millions forthcoming, then ask yourself what the 6-foot guard has left.
With his lifestyle, his mistakes, his lack of preparation for a life beyond the glory.
Talk to anyone remotely associated with Iverson and they can't deny that he is ill-prepared for a post-basketball career. His cohorts still look to him as that mercurial box-office star who won four scoring titles and a league MVP award, not as someone who simply dreams about those days right now.
The one advantage Iverson acknowledged having all of these years was a wife about whom he publicly said, "I'd die for her. . . . I'd die without her." Now, she essentially has said, "Go right ahead."
No wonder Moore said, "Pray."
This is Iverson we're talking about. What else is there to do? Especially if he is forced to stand alone?
As only he can, Stephan A. Smith's column again sent shock waves throughout the NBA about the well being of Iverson.  Three days after the column was posted, Iverson took to twitter to send a message to his fans.


To my fans: You all know that my life isn't perfect. I am going through some very tough times right now, like I am sure that we all do from time to time. However, I will stand tall like always with "rhino" thick skin. Even though I have become used to hearing people say things about me that aren't true, it still hurts. I encourage you to continue your ongoing support and I want you to trust that this is another obstacle in my life that, with God's help I will overcome. God Bless You All.

And with that statement Iverson disappeared, he simply vanished to his Atlanta home to reconcile with his wife and be a father to their five kids.  Worried about Iverson's alleged state, NBA Commisioner David Stern and John Thompson reached out to Iverson after Smith's column to ensure his well being. The love was starting to show again and it was recipricated by Iverson.

The Second Coming?

November 8th 2010, the basketball world was shocked to hear that Iverson had agreed to play on Turkeys Besiktas basketball team.  The contract was worth 4 million dollars over the course of two years.  Many saw this as a way for Iverson to return to the NBA or a way for him to climb out of the alleged debt he's in by seeking one last pay day but the truth is that Allen Iverson loves to play basketball nothing more, nothing less. He returned to the US January 12th and underwent surgery to have a lesion removed from his right leg.  Now it seems as if Iverson is healed and ready to return to action in Turkey.  Can Iverson one day return to the NBA; only time will tell but when he's on the court he's happy and soon he'll be back in Turkey doing what he loves. 


Hall of Fame Bound?

One could easily make the argument that the Allen Iverson's stats can stand the test of time among some of the greatest point guards that the game has ever seen but oddly enough his numbers could have been far better.  Because of his size, listed at 6'0 but more like 5'10 and weighing around 165 pounds, Iverson was considered too small to play his position of Shooting Guard in the NBA so he was often cast as the team point Iverson and despite doing the best he could at that position for the majority of his career he played out of position.  Imagine how much more of a weapon Iverson would have been without having to run the offense for his teams.  The one season the Allen was the MVP of the league, the same one that saw him make his only trip to the NBA Finals, he actually played his natural position of shooting guard, Eric Snow was the Sixers point guard at that time.  Perhaps Allen could have led the Sixers to a title if he had played shooting guard his entire 15 year career, but when you compare his numbers to some of the greatest point guards in the history of the NBA he more than holds his own against them.

NBA Most Valuable Player (2001)
NBA Rookie of the Year (1997)
11× NBA All-Star (2000-2010)
4× NBA scoring champion (1999, 2001-2002, 2005)
3× All-NBA First Team (1999, 2001, 2005)
3× All-NBA Second Team (2000, 2002-2003)
All-NBA Third Team (2006)
NBA All-Rookie First Team (1997)
2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2001, 2005)

Isiah Thomas:

NBA All-Rookie Team (1982)
12× NBA All-Star (1982-93)
2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (1984, 1986)
3× All-NBA First Team (1984-86)
2× All-NBA Second Team (1983, 1987)
2× NBA Champion (1989, 1990)
NBA Finals MVP (1990)

Magic Johnson

5× NBA Champion (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987–1988)
3× NBA Most Valuable Player (1987, 1989–1990)
12× All-Star (1980, 1982–1992)
3× NBA Finals MVP (1980, 1982, 1987)
9× All-NBA First Team (1983–1991)
All-NBA Second Team (1982)
NBA All-Rookie First Team (1980)
2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (1990, 1992)

Jerry West "The Logo"

NBA Champion (1972)
14× NBA All-Star (1961–1974)
NBA Finals MVP (1969)
10× All-NBA First Team (1962–1967, 1970–1973)
2× All-NBA Second Team (1968–1969)
4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1970–1973)
NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1969)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1972) 

Allen Iverson aka Bubbachuck
Before he was The Answer or AI, he was Bubbachuck, a playground legend in Virginia.  During the time that he lived in the Stuart Gardens Apartments in New Port News, his youth coach, Bob Barefield, had to bring Allen meals everyday to ensure he had eaten.  The community knew that Bubbachuck was a special kind of talent as he led his highschool football and basketball teams to state titles as a junior and right or wrong they rallied around him during the trial for his freedom, as one film maker described, it was Hampton's OJ Simpson  trial.  There's no doubt that millions of teens in the US grew up under the same hard and stressful circumstances as Bubbachuck did all the while having visions, dreams of one day making it out via the NBA or NFL.  He was truly in a life or death situation and up to this point in his life he's won but it's up to him whether or not he continues to win.  Allen Iverson now 35 left Bubbachuck back in Hampton, deserted him for The Answer and A.I. but maybe it's Bubbachuck whom he needs the most at this time in his life.


If there's any questions or comments feel free to email me at nbaballanation@gmail.com, all emails will be responded to.  You can also follow me on twitter @ballanation2010.