Last week, it got sadder when a new book came out detailing his spectacular fall from grace, Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Washington Post reporter Kent Babb.
For years, I thought that maybe there was something that the world at-large was missing, that maybe he was through it all, a good guy that occasionally did bad things. But, after reading the stories and then - just to be more certain - sifting through interviews with the author, it probably is the other way around.
Since the mid-90s, I’ve followed every twist and turn of Iverson’s career, from his time at Georgetown to the way he burst on the scene with the Philadelphia 76ers and dragged the NBA into hip hop culture, even though the league didn’t quite seem to want to go there. He would the way for LeBron James to have sleeves of tattoos down both arms 15 years later.
There are a few things that always remind me of being a teenager: DMX songs, Polo Sport cologne, Wind River hoodies and Allen Iverson. Part of the reason, I think, he was able to connect with so many young people was that he carried a lot of the same burdens of feeling alienated and having to prove himself to a world that wasn’t shy about saying he wasn’t yet ready to be a part of it.
I feel safe saying that there will never be anyone else who does what Iverson did on the basketball court. He was three inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than Steph Curry, pinballing all over the court and going up against the giants of the NBA on a nightly basis, seemingly guaranteed to score between 30 and 40 points every time he laced up his sneakers.
What goes up must come down, and Iverson has come down hard in recent years after bottoming out of the NBA, and heading overseas to try to hang onto whatever shred of past glory he could. Stories of basketball glory were replaced with cautionary tales of the staggering amounts of money he squandered away and how someone who was lauded for years for his loyalty had all but abandoned his family.
His multiple cars and homes have been, or soon will-be sold at auction and according to reports, the man who electrified a generation of basketball fans has now sunk to wallowing away his days, getting drunk at P.F. Chang’s.
In Babb’s book, he details how Iverson was allegedly drunk at the press conference that produced his career’s signature moment - the ‘practice’ press conference, in which he repeated the word 22 times over the course of the rant.
“We talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice.”
The fact is, Iverson made over $200 million playing basketball, and has blown it all. Save for one last $32 million payday from Reebok that he has to wait until 2030, when he turns 55-years-old to collect. If he is able to make that far.