If you’re looking for a good read on this Sunday night, if you’re a fan of basketball (maybe one of the few 76ers fans remaining in the world—they are a dying breed), or if you just like a good/interesting sports story, I think I’ve got one for you.
In today’s Washington Post, Kent Babb detailed the struggles faced by Allen Iverson, who’s now three years removed from his last NBA appearance but has yet to accept the fact that his basketball career is essentially finished.
Iverson was welcomed back to the Wells Fargo Center this past March in a rare public outing, on a night that the team that drafted him was handing out bobble head’s made in his likeness. As he made his way out onto the court, getting introduced like he had been so many times over the years, the 6-foot guard from Georgetown, and former-MVP, was faced with a pretty harsh reality—one that Babb talked to many former teammates, acquaintances, and coaches about—this was probably the last time he’d be seen on the hardwood.
Below are some of the more interesting excerpts.
On his life essentially falling apart:
Iverson isn’t a basketball player anymore. This is something most everyone but Iverson has accepted, and for years a question worried those closest to him: What happens when the most important part of a man’s identity, the beam supporting the other unstable matter, is no longer there?
For the past three years, as Iverson chased an NBA comeback, his marriage fell apart and much of his fortune – he earned more than $150 million in salary alone during his career – dissolved. Now, those who once ignored past signals have recognized that basketball may have been the only thing holding Iverson’s life together.
“He has hit rock bottom, and he just hasn’t accepted it yet,” says former Philadelphia teammate Roshown McLeod.
On staying out of the spotlight:
Larry Brown, who coached Iverson in Philadelphia, has called often recently, extending invitations to Dallas. Brown now coaches there, at Southern Methodist University, and two of Iverson’s former Sixers teammates, Eric Snow and George Lynch, are on Brown’s staff. Brown thinks it would be good for Iverson to be around the game and people who still care about him, but Iverson hasn’t visited.
“I worry about him,” Brown said. “A lot.”
McKie and others have texted. Iverson responds sometimes, although days or weeks often pass. Other times, there’s no reply. He keeps to himself, something of a recluse, and declines most interview requests. Last year his eldest daughter, Tiaura, asked to live with her father, according to divorce testimony transcripts. She was concerned about how few people her dad interacts with.
“I just don’t like to see it end this way,” Brown said.
On his shortcomings as a father and husband:
His play kept his shortcomings in the shadows, but at home, his behavior caused increasing worry. Tawanna testified (in divorce court proceedings) that her husband was undependable and volatile. Alcohol intensified his flaws, she said, leading him to skip milestone events and stagger through others.
He hadn’t been present for Tiaura’s birth in 1994, and three years later, when Allen Jr. was born – they would call him Deuce – Iverson was “very intoxicated” and unable to drive her to the hospital, Tawanna told the court.
On his financial problems:
Iverson kept living as if another contract was imminent, and Tawanna struggled to curb his spending. According to a bank statement submitted in the divorce, the couple’s checking account was overdrawn by more than $23,000 in July 2011. In a single day, $23,255.36 was deducted – at a diamond store, a hat shop, a steakhouse and a hotel.
Tawanna testified that her checks bounced that month when she paid for housing and electricity. She sold jewelry and Tiaura’s car to pay for household expenses, including school clothes and supplies.
Before their home in Denver was foreclosed, Tawanna testified, she sold more jewelry at a pawn shop to pay toward debt. Iverson owed thousands to a Georgia home builder, was hit with tax liens, and his wages were garnished to settle a nearly $860,000 balance with a jeweler.
On being unwanted:
Iverson kept waiting for NBA teams to call. Last August, Iverson’s son Deuce, now 15, enrolled in a Pennsylvania school and families were invited to group counseling. Tawanna testified that Iverson skipped most of the sessions, including a lunch with his son. During a meeting he did attend, the speaker told the children about success, and how Donald Trump had seized opportunities.
Iverson interrupted, telling them that he had been the man with money and fame. Then he said something Tawanna would remember.
“What are you supposed to do,” she recalled him saying, “when, you know, they don’t want you anymore?”
In an interview the night of the appearance, on his future:
“I put it in God’s hands,” Iverson says, his voice cracking. “I’ve accomplished a lot in the NBA, and if the road ends here, then it does.”
He continues, looking contemplative, choosing the right words.
“And I’m not bitter about it. I don’t feel no type of way. I just understand that He helped me accomplish a lot of things in the NBA. I’ve done so many things that people thought that I couldn’t do . . .
“But at some point, it comes to an end. And regardless of however it comes — regardless if it’s retirement, injury, or whatever — at some point, it comes to an end.”
Then he smiles.
“Now, if I get a chance to play again,” he says, pausing at the thought, “I would love the opportunity.”
I won’t lie, AI was the reason I liked watching the Sixers as a youngin’. He made thngs entertaining. He certainly wasn’t the perfect role model, but he absolutely left his heart out on the court every time he played. A lot’s changed with the team since he (and Brown) left.
As much as a (third) comeback to Philly would make me all nostalgic (again), it obviously would do no good for anyone. It’s a sucky process, but Iverson will eventually come to grips with the fact that he’s done. And maybe the best place for him to do that is on the bench or in the front office in Philly.
Wherever it is, though, it’d be nice to see it happen soon. He absolutely deserves to be in a better position than he is right now.