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Can Allen Iverson overcome yet another obstacle?


As a Philadelphia 76er, Allen Iverson did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and never made any apologies for his actions- on or off the court.

On the court, you won’t find too much of an argument here. Iverson brought it 99% of the time every night, as he embodied the ‘never say die’ attitude that will endear himself to most Sixers fans forever.Allen Iverson photo: askmen.com

Off the court however, Iverson’s behavior was always questionable. And now, it seems he’s in big trouble. Even bigger than all the other times, and there have been plenty. Several days ago, a judge garnished  Iverson’s earnings because he owes over $800,000 to a jeweler.

For a guy who made well over $100 million dollars in his NBA career, the fact that Iverson can’t seem to pay a bill that would seem like relative chump change means one of two things: 1. Like most things off the court, Iverson just doesn’t give a crap, or/and  2. The man is almost broke.

Either way you look at it, it’s pretty sad, considering what Iverson had to rise above before coming into prominence as an NBA legend. When you think about it, it’s almost as identical as the case of Terrell Owens, who is facing some money issues of his own, but more on that later.

The first time I ever heard of Allen Iverson was in the Winter of 1995. My sister, then a freshman at Villanova, was excited for her basketball team’s matchup against Georgetown. During our talk, she noted how one of Georgetown’s players was actually incarcerated at one time. Of course, Iverson was the player she was referring to. And although what actually transpired that night in 1993 in Iverson’s native Virginia is a topic of discussion almost 20 years later, it would be tough to argue that this was the beginning of trouble that seemed to follow him the last two decades of his life. Little did I know after that five minute conversation that Iverson would soon leave an indelible mark on our hometown team’s NBA squad that still has people talking about him to this day.

I have more ambivalence towards Allen Iverson than perhaps any athlete I have ever watched in this town. After all, the man single-handedly rescued the Philadelphia 76ers from the darkest depth of Mordor in 1996 when the Sixers took him as the first pick on the NBA Draft. Iverson snatched the Rookie of the Year Award in May 1997, but three months later he was arrested on drug possession charges with his entourage and was suspended for the opening game of the following season.

Despite momets on the court that made you marvel in appreciation for the man who could take over an entire game while barely standing six feet tall, Iverson had his share of lesser points. His refusal to practice irritated me to no end, and the reason he didn’t practice was because he never involved his teammates when he took the NBA hardwood. Did the Sixers never win a title because they had B-level players throughout Iverson’s tenure with the team? Or was it because Iverson never learned how to ‘play’ with his teammates?  Keep in mind no player besides Iverson ever averaged 16 points on a Sixers team that had a winning record during his tenure (the closest was Keith Van Horn with 15.9 PPG in 2002-2003).

I’m sure Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul Jabbar weren't in love with practice (well, maybe Bird). But guess what? They practiced anyway, and made their teammates better in the process. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it’s kind of ironic that James Worthy lost a step right after Magic retired. Worthy by the way, was the MVP of the 1988 NBA Finals- not Magic or Kareem. And who was the Finals MVP for the Celtics in 1981? Cedric Maxwell.  John Paxson and Steve Kerr clinched two of the six Bulls’ titles by hitting game-winning shots. And by the way, you can credit Jordan with the assist on Kerr’s 17-footer.  Allen Iverson photo: theglobalgameworldreport.com

Now granted, Worthy is a Hall of Famer, but the other three were role players. I just find it hard to believe that none of Iverson’s teammates could have played a bigger role in helping the team during his time in Philadelphia than they did.

Whether the talent was there or not, Iverson never made his teammates better, and the now infamous “Practice” press conference where he responded “How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?” to a reporter pretty much sums up the fact that as talented as Iverson was, overall he just didn’t get the big pitcture about what it took to truly win. His image was further tarnished when several weeks later, Iverson reportedly threw his then-wife out of the house naked after an argument and was faced with several criminal charges too numerous to list for this article. The next season saw Iverson butt heads with interim coach Chris Ford, who had justifiable reasons for benching Iverson on several occasions. He even refused to play a game in which Ford did not intend to start him after an injury. Talk about a lack of leadership.

In Iverson’s 10 seasons in Philadelphia, he was often known for stiffing Philadelphia bartenders after racking up grandiose bills in the local drinking establishments. He was also caught and fined for parking in numerous handicapped spots in the Philadelphia International Airport, and was banned from casinos in Atlantic City (and later in Detroit) for his outlandish behavior.

The final straw for me personally with Iverson was when he and Chris Webber basically ditched fan appreciation night in 2006. Although Sixers attendance was in decline by that time and the team wasn’t going to the playoffs, Iverson basically stuck it to every fan who stood by him through thick and thin during the last ten years, including Maurice Cheeks, his coach and alleged ‘friend.’

As much as I loved watching him on the court (and contrary to my views here, I really did love watching him play), I realized it was clearly time for Iverson to go. It was his talent and heart that made me root for the Sixers, but it was his indifference to everything around him that still makes me wonder how much better he could have been.

By all accounts, Iverson should be playing his final days in the NBA. What does that say when he has to travel to Turkey to play basketball because he can’t land a job with an NBA team?  It’s not too dissimilar to Owens. Both players are past their prime to the point where teams aren’t willing to put up with a player of diminishing skills for the headache they will get in exchange.

It’s almost impossible for me to feel sorry for any human being who squandered his multi-million dollar empire. I feel sorry for Allen Iverson because he came from nothing, and overcame tremendous adversity to make himself an NBA superstar. I do not feel sorry for him in the sense that he wasted all of it. His wife has left him, he can’t get a job doing what he loves more than anything, and he no longer controls what goes in and out of his own bank account.

I don’t know if Iverson can ever come back from this or not. At the end of the day, it’s apparent that the man known as “The Answer” is all out of answers. And despite all of the stumbling blocks he has faced, Allen Iverson has never been able to overcome the biggest obstacle of all.



Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Thumbnail: askmen.com

2nd photo: blackathlete.net

Homepage: theglobalgameworldreport.com