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1998 article: Allen Iverson's image

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1998 article: Allen Iverson's image

Found another article on SI vault, this is from the end of AI's second season. Just thought it was interesting how he was portrayed early in his career. He's one of the guys I grew up watching, I really miss guys like him and T-Mac from the early-mid 2000s. It's a great read, but it's a bit long.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1012198/index...

NAKED

You've got 12 minutes, from now until he's dressed and gone, to understand the kid America sees as the jeans-saggin', 'do-raggin', gun-totin', dope-smokin' hoodlum who's going to ruin the post-Michael era, one cornrow at a time.

First, look at him. Just for a second, before he goes all gangsta and stare and attitude. Remember Allen Iverson like this: butt-naked, skinny, 160 pounds tops, including tattoos and scars and hurt. Just a 22-year-old with a boy's chest and a Cub Scout's legs and so much on his mind. If you've just flown in from Borneo and never seen the most dazzling, maddening, unguardable, confused young player in the NBA, you might figure Iverson for one of the towel boys. Look at him as he goes back to his locker after a postgame shower, sidestepping the frontcourt monsters with their Michelangelo bodies and their knuckles scraping the ceiling as they put on their size-XXXL undershirts. Stand Iverson next to Derrick Coleman, the Philadelphia 76ers' 6'10", 260-pound forward, and you get an idea of how the Beaver felt when he saw Wally get out of the bathtub.

But look even closer. Iverson's body was made to play point guard in the NBA. His arms must be seven feet long. When former Sixers guard World B. Free saw Iverson naked the first time, he said, "Yo, Al, they gave you somebody else's body!" Those arms let him flip spin shots over oafish centers with either hand. Look at his size-11 feet, which give him that detonation off the dribble. The kid has no real jumper yet, so everybody in the building knows he's driving, and yet they get low, they get ready, and then, like that, they get served.

Iverson is the quickest player the league has ever seen, quicker than Tiny Archibald, quicker than Calvin Murphy, quicker even than Rickey Green, who had quickness and not much else. What Michael Jordan did to the notion of space, Iverson does to speed. He dropped 31 on the Lakers' Nick Van Exel in a Sixers win in Los Angeles on Jan. 4, and X is still not sure Iverson wasn't just a rumor.

There's so much Iverson still needs to learn, but for pure, raw rush nobody this side of Jordan is more fun to watch. Jordan's teammate Ron Harper once said that Iverson is so quick, "I have to rub my eyes." Sixers assistant Mo Cheeks, the human blur who helped lead Philly to the 1983 NBA title, says, "In my prime, I think I'd have to give Allen a half step. Maybe a step." And Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson has said, "I'd pay to watch Allen play."

Iverson is not a bodybuilder. He is not big on crunches. He is just an athlete. You can tell it from the hands, soft enough to draw fine sketches but big enough to palm a ball, the key to the signature crossover dribble that has left even Jordan looking like a Times Square tourist who just lost at three-card monte. Those hands can throw a spiral 70 yards in the air, which Iverson did while taping a TV feature with the Philadelphia Eagles last year. He also made a one-handed catch of a 50-yard pass, ran perfect routes and had Eagles assistant coach Gerald Carr asking, "When's his contract up?"

ROWS

The first thing Iverson puts on after his shower is his 'do rag, because his braids are not exactly as he likes them, and Iverson usually refuses to be seen or to be interviewed on camera if his corn-rows are not exactly as he likes them. It's understood among the Philadelphia media. "Rows in yet?" a cameraman will ask, waiting for the locker room door to open after practice.

"Nah," somebody will say forlornly.

"Damn," the cameraman will say as he snaps off his light.

Iverson sports the rows because he knows they make him different from the wack suits in Philly who pay $54 a ticket to watch him, knows they make him different from the writers who rip him. It's his I.D. in the Hip-Hop Nation, as he calls it. Ask Spike Lee what keeps America from embracing one of the most entertaining young players in the NBA, and Lee doesn't hesitate: "The braids."

A woman from New Jersey comes twice a week to put them in. Takes about an hour. Sometimes she does them in eight rows, sometimes in a zigzag. It's a style associated with the ghetto. Portland Trail Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace is the only other NBA player spoiling rows since Latrell Sprewell was bounced from the league in December for constricting coach P.J. Carlesimo's windpipe. Rows are a look that comes with a cartload of baggage. "Hey," a black kid said to Iverson late last year as he got the player's autograph, "you look like a drug dealer from round my way!"

You can hear the fans' disdain for Iverson in arenas. In Orlando one night, a white guy in the fourth row hollered, "Hey, crack boy! Go back to jail!" In New York in December, a fan hollered, "I can't believe they let you still play after all the s—- you've pulled!" Even in Philly he hears, almost nightly, "Get a haircut!"

Such reactions nag him. "I got rows," he says. "But that don't mean I'm no gangbanger. I ain't never been in a gang. Why people wanna judge me like that?"

Not that Iverson doesn't know bangers and thugs. He spent most of his life trying to survive them. Over one summer in the jagged-edged section of Hampton, Va., where he grew up, eight of his friends were killed, one of them his best friend, Tony Clark, who had always stood up for Iverson whenever he was in trouble. If Clark had lived, he might have saved Iverson from the worst night of his life, the one that nearly ruined him.

On Feb. 14, 1993, Iverson and a pal, relaxing after a high school game, walked into the Circle Lanes bowling alley, where a lot of the local kids hung out. Now, Allen Iverson walking into a bowling alley in Hampton was like Elvis walking into a Shoney's. Heads snapped to see the dude who'd quarterbacked Bethel High to the state Class AAA football title two months earlier and would in basketball within a few weeks. A dispute elsewhere in the bowling alley turned into a brawl along racial lines. Someone happened to catch much of the melee on videotape, but the tape did not show Iverson. In fact, Iverson later testified that he left as soon as the fight broke out. Still, two witnesses said Iverson threw a chair that hit a woman on the head, causing a gash that required stitches. Of the 50 or so people allegedly in the brawl, half of whom were white, only four were charged, all black teens. One was 17-year-old Allen Ezail Iverson, who was tried as an adult, convicted of maiming by mob and sentenced to five years in the state pen, even though he had no prior criminal record.

"I had to sit there and listen to people lie, and nothin' I could do about it," Iverson says, riling up. "I mean, I come in there with one guy, and pretty soon I'm linked with 15, 20 guys. I mean, for me to be in a bowling alley, where everybody in the whole place know who I am and me be crackin' people upside the head with chairs and think nothin' gonna happen? That's crazy! And what kinda man would I be to hit a girl in the head with a damn chair? I wish at least they'd said I hit some damn man!" Iverson says he learned from the incident: "Yeah, if a whole bunch of black people get in a fight, it is nowhere near as serious as if you're black and you're whippin' some white people's ass."

He sat in prison at the Newport News City Farm, reading about himself in the paper and crying. "I thank those people, really," he says. "I thank those writers for the things they wrote. They made me stronger. I learned so much about people."

Four months into his sentence Iverson was granted a conditional release by then Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, the condition being that he not play organized sports until he graduated from high school. Two years later his conviction was reversed by the state court of appeals due to insufficient evidence. There is not a speck of the case on Iverson's record. But it marks him on the inside. It marks him every day.

GEAR

Now comes the fly gear: the jeans with legs you could comfortably slide sequoias into, their cuffs accordioning around Iverson's feet, just the way he likes them; the too long T-shirt; the double-oversized leather jacket. Everything worn to the specified degree of baggy, perfectly untucked, painstakingly careless, for the look that says "I make my check in your world, but I'm not of your world."

On the court Iverson earns the NBA front office's vote for Worst Dressed. The league has warned him about having his uniform shorts too long, complained that his ankle braces didn't permit enough of his white socks to show and groused to the Sixers after he showed up in a white skullcap to get his 1996-97 rookie of the year trophy. "Damn, these people want me to wear Italian suits all the time like Michael," Iverson says. "Want me to act like I'm 25, 26 or 27 years old. Well, I'm not that old yet. I'm only 22. Don't rush me."

One day at a school in Chicago where Iverson's agent, David Falk, was speaking, a kid asked Falk what he thought of Iverson's clothing style. "I had a hard time getting used to it," Falk answered. "But I've got no problem with it. The thing is, though, that Allen has to understand how it affects things. If I walk into a bank and try to make a $500,000 deal for him and he comes in wearing his 'do rag, the white guys who run the bank are going to think he's there to rob the place, not sign a deal. So if it's important for him to make the statement as opposed to signing the deal, that's fine, as long as he knows."

A kid in the back stood up and said, "But isn't that racist?"

"Like, duh," replied Falk.

Do you remember Jordan's arrival in the NBA, in 1984? Remember how he showed up at his first All-Star Game, in Indianapolis in '85, in black baggy sweats, a Brink's truck's worth of jewelry and big black sneakers—no Armani suit, no Bruno Maglis and (gasp!) no pocket square? Remember how the veterans hated Jordan? Remember Isiah Thomas freezing him out?

"You know, I see Allen in his huge baggy pants and the untied boots, everything untucked, just kind of shuffling along," says Sixers TV color man Steve Mix, a middle-aged white guy with short hair, "and I think, Oh, man, look at this guy. Then I go home and see my 11-year-old wearing the exact same stuff] I mean, people see him and are scared of him, but is he any different from other kids of his generation?"

There is one man in a button-down collar and pin-striped suit who doesn't give a damn how baggy Iverson dresses. Fifty-seven-year-old Larry Brown, the first-year Sixers coach, just wants Iverson to run a tight team. It has been excruciating for Brown, a man who holds the ABA single-game assists record (23), to get through to Iverson how important passing is.

"If you come down and jack up a bad shot and nobody else touches the ball," Brown told Iverson one day early this season, "what good have you done? Those four guys, they don't want to come back down on defense. They don't really want to pick up your guy on the switch, set you a good screen next time. It gets old for them real fast."

Iverson is trying. "You can't imagine how hard he is trying," former Sixers forward Terry Cummings says. Iverson has made some breakthroughs this season—26 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers in a 114-100 win over the Rockets in Houston on Nov. 12, and 27 points and 12 assists in a 98-89 victory over the Nets in New Jersey on Feb. 21. But the Sixers were still a sorry 19-37 at week's end, and on most nights Iverson seems to work on deepening the slump in Brown's shoulders. There was, for instance, his 2-for-17 shooting for seven points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 22. ("Damn," says Murphy, "if I went 2 for 17, they'd check my urine.") There was the night that same month in Orlando when the Sixers were about to bust the game open, had a three-on-one break, Iverson with the ball. He brought it behind his back, then tried to flip it to the wing. Instead, he lost the ball to the lone Magic defender, creating a four-on-two at the other end and a four-point screwup.

"He tried something for ESPN or CNN instead of just making the bucket," groaned Sixers assistant Gar Heard. Grumbled Brown, "All of a sudden it's degree-of-difficulty time." Sixers lose by nine.

One of Iverson's problems is that he has the same knuckleheaded notion about himself that a lot of sports fans have about black athletes: They don't need to work on their game. During the week we spent with Iverson early this season, he did not take an extra minute of practice to work on his jumper or his free throw shooting. If there was a shootaround, he showed up when it started and left as soon as it was over. If there was a full practice, he was the first one off the court. Before a game in New York in December, he spent 45 minutes working the phones to get tickets for Puff Daddy and made it to the court only in time to warm up with the rest of the Sixers.

Iverson was shooting 44.9% from the floor at week's end, but most of his makes were cripples off drives that nobody else can do. Outside the key, he's a brick factory. Has anybody told him that early in his NBA career Jordan shot 500 jumpers a day? Or that one summer Larry Bird spent every day dribbling and shooting only lefthanded? Or that it was a cold day in Inglewood when Magic Johnson didn't take an extra hour of shooting?

True, Iverson is a tyke. He should be a senior in college right now. And Brownball, a gray-flannel-suit style of offense, is a whole new world for him. At Georgetown, coach John Thompson let Iverson create to his heart's content. Last season, in Iverson's rookie year with the Sixers, then coach Johnny Davis insisted that he gun it. Iverson struck for 40 or more points in five straight games—and Philadelphia lost all five. Playing Brownball hasn't been as much fun, Iverson says. "If I had a mismatch last year, I could take it," he says. "I can't do that as much this year. That gets a little frustrating."

It must be frustrating too for Iverson to lead the league in balls bounced off teammates' chests and foreheads. Sometimes you look out there and it's Iverson and the cast from Frankenstein, the Musical. Iverson's passes are often so good that teammates don't realize they were open until they look at the videotape.

To Brown the problem is modern NBA super-stardom, which too often prevents a player from getting to know his teammates, prevents him from trusting them. When you bolt every game with a phalanx of high school buddies, bodyguards and Reebok chaperones, any teammate who is trying to bond with you has to follow along in his own car. "The company Allen's with is Reebok, not really us," Brown says.

The day after a December road loss to the Knicks, Iverson missed morning practice in New York, for which he was held out of one game. So how come he arrived on time for his Reebok ad shoot in Boston later that same day?

SHOES

If you were to walk a mile in Iverson's shoes, you would trip, on account of he rarely ties his laces. He usually wears Doc Martens in the winter, sneakers in the summer. Shoes have always been big in the Iverson household. At 3710 Victoria Boulevard in Hampton, you needed to wear shoes, day or night, because the floor might be coated with raw sewage. One time the sewer pipe that ran under the house ruptured, and though the public service company sent someone out to fix it, the problem remained. The smell was terrible. Often there was no power, since Allen's mother couldn't afford to pay the bill. No heat, either—another unpaid bill.

Ann Iverson was 15 years old when Allen was born in 1975. Shortly thereafter, Ann's mother died from complications after surgery. Allen's father, Allen Broughton, stayed in Hartford, where the Iversons lived before Allen's birth, and has little contact with his son. (On Feb. 19 Broughton pleaded guilty to stabbing a former girlfriend and was sentenced to nine years in jail.)

In Hampton, Ann "did whatever she had to" to make money, according to Allen. Pressed on this, he repeats, "whatever she had to." Her hardships ate at Allen. As a boy he would tell her, "Mama, I'm going to get rich and buy you a big red Jaguar." At night Ann would dream about the Jaguar. She'd try and try to start it up, only it wouldn't turn over. Then she'd look up to see a stream of traffic coming right at her, and she'd jolt herself awake.

Back then Allen blamed his family's situation on the only father he's ever known, Michael Freeman, who moved in with Ann shortly after Allen's birth. Freeman worked at the Newport News shipyards, but a car accident in January '88 laid him up, and when he was laid off, the family started to sink. He couldn't find work, so he found trouble. He was convicted of drug possession with intent to distribute in February 1991. "I didn't buy Cadillacs and diamond rings, man," says Freeman. "I was payin' bills." He did 22 months in the state prison in Greenville, Va., then 23 months at the state pen in Halifax for violating his parole.

Now, looking back, Iverson says he is "proud" of Freeman. "He never robbed nobody," Iverson says. "He was just tryin' to feed his family. It would kill him to come from jail and find out how his family was living. One time he came home and just sat down and cried."

Today the 41-year-old Freeman—the man who taught Iverson to play basketball, dragged him to pickup games even though Allen thought hoops was "soft"—sits in the same Newport News jail that Iverson sat in. He was sent back to prison 10 months ago for another parole violation.

Ann and Michael had a daughter, Brandy, in 1979, and another, Iiesha, in 1991. From birth, Iiesha suffered seizures, and the bills from doctors, hospitals and specialists drove Ann deeper into debt. Allen and the school attendance ledger never got along, but how many people knew that often he was home taking care of Iiesha while his mother was out working at the shipyards or at a clothing factory? When you are the oldest man in the house and your mother is motherless and not much older than some of your friends, and your sister is shaking and you don't know why you're living in a dark, freezing sewer hole, it occurs to you that there is a lot riding on you. Allen formed the Plan.

"I knew I had to succeed for them," he says. "People would say, 'Man, that's a million-to-one shot to make it to the NBA,' but I'd say, 'Not for me it ain't.' 'Cause if I didn't succeed, well, I don't wanna think about it. I thought, for all the sufferin' they've done, they need me to make it. They oughta have some satisfaction in life."

Even when he was in jail, Iverson stuck to the Plan. Every day, after he got off work in the prison kitchen at 5:30, he went out in the winter dusk and shot balls at a broken-down hoop nailed to a wall. He was determined to get his high school degree, because without it he'd never get his shot in college. "I had a bigger picture for my life," Iverson says. "I wasn't gonna go back to the sewer."

ICE

Allen (Lump) Lumpkin, the Sixers' equipment manager, lays seven bulky manila envelopes on the chair next to Iverson, who rips the first one open. Inside is a brilliant gold watch dripping diamonds, huge steroid-fed diamonds—130 carats in all, says Iverson—a timepiece worth about $80,000, or at least twice what Lump pulls down in a year. Iverson puts it on his thin right wrist.

He rips the second manila packet open. Inside is a gorgeous gold bracelet lousy with diamonds, a diamond-palooza, 120 carats. Got to be worth 50 large. He slides it on his left wrist. Envelope number 3 holds two bulbous diamond earrings, 3.5 carats each, big enough to make Elizabeth Taylor punch a hole in her vanity. These slide into Iverson's pierced ears. The fourth manila belches forth a weighty gold necklace with a fist-sized diamond-encrusted medallion in the shape of handcuffs—"To remind me of where I never want to go back," Iverson once said. The entire piece is so laden with stones that it could give a strong man a stoop. Iverson slips his cornrows through the necklace. The fifth envelope contains a magnificent gold ring—the size a giant might require—adorned with 80 carats' worth of diamonds. The sixth manila contains still another gold necklace. Aladdin never had a night like this.

Even before Iverson opens the seventh envelope, some people might snicker and roll their eyes at the sight of this human Zales rising from his folding chair, but Iverson wouldn't care. He says, "People see someone with a lot jewelry on, they go, 'He a drug dealer, he a pimp, he doin' somethin' illegal.' But they don't have to look at me like that. When I was little, my mom and I used to sit in the dark and talk about jewelry—all the cool jewelry we were gonna have someday. I told her, 'I'm gonna buy you the best jewelry in the world.' I think black people deserve things like that. I think my mom deserves it."

The sad truth about the NBA is that the people who understand the players best, who know what they had to overcome to reach the pros, can't afford to attend their games. Most of the people who think of Iverson as a hero aren't in the seats. They're shivering outside the arenas, waiting for the game to end, hoping to catch a glimpse of the athletic leader of the Hip-Hop Nation as he rides by in a bus. "I'm proud to represent them," Iverson says. "They down with me because I'm from where they from. They can understand why I dress the way I dress, why I wear my hair the way I wear my hair. So they respect me and love me. They know the odds against a black male makin' it."

ROLL

The seventh envelope holds Iverson's wallet and his money clip. As he tucks them into his pockets, he probably doesn't take time to consider how many people helped him fill the clip: The three attorneys who worked tirelessly for his release from prison, knowing their payment could not come until much later. The coaches and friends' parents who stopped by Allen's house every day after his release to take him to school. And especially an iron-fisted, no-nonsense tutor named Sue Lambiotte, who agreed to take on the most controversial student in Virginia for no payment.

Because she saw something more than a great crossover dribble in Iverson, Lambiotte agreed to work with him while he was in prison and then, after he got out, from 10 till 4 five days a week. That, for Iverson, was "probably worse than jail," Lambiotte says with a laugh. She wouldn't accept any excuse for his not showing up, not having his homework done, not finishing his classroom work.

Worse, Lambiotte's learning center was in Poquoson, Va., home of some of the whites in the bowling-alley fight. "There was a lot of tension for Allen even driving into the town," the tutor says. "But he kept coming." He came for the last time on Sept. 2, 1994, when he passed his final test. Lambiotte had a graduation ceremony that day, just she and Allen. He was valedictorian. He was going to college.

"That first day I left [for Georgetown] was one of the hardest in my life," Iverson says. "It was one of the worst feelings I've ever had inside, knowing what my family was going through." He rode away in the car and waved to his mother and sisters as they got smaller in the rear window. When the car turned the corner, he wept.

"Every time I came home after that, it seemed like their living situation got worse," he says. He loved Georgetown, but he never doubted he would leave after two years. He had promises to keep. He had the Plan. On June 26, 1996, it came to fruition when he was the first player taken in the NBA draft. That September he signed a three-year, $9.4 million contract.

The wallet in Iverson's pocket is small, but so many people live out of it. He is responsible for his girlfriend, Tawanna Turner, and their two children, three-year-old Tiaura and two-month-old Allen II, who live with him in a three-bedroom house outside of Philadelphia. He is also responsible for Ann; for Brandy, now 19; for six-year-old Iiesha, who has gone a year without having a seizure; for his Aunt Jessie, who cooks for him and runs his house, and for her kids, Timothy, 9, Coyea, 12, and Shaun, 17; for Ann's brothers Stevie and Greg; and, of course, for his jailed father, Michael Freeman. "Soon as he gets out, I got him," Iverson says. "I got him forever. Whatever he needs."

In return for supporting these relatives, Iverson asks only that they be around. "The more of his family here, the better," says Jessie, who shares a separate house in suburban Philadelphia with all the members of Allen's extended family except Brandy, who still lives in Virginia. "We're working on Brandy to come live with us now." They lack nothing they want or need. Single-handedly, Iverson saved a family tree.

The Plan worked. At 22, Iverson has achieved all he wanted in life. He made the NBA. He got his family out of the two-bedroom sewer. And one day he brought home to his mother a shiny red Jaguar. It took her awhile to put the key in the ignition because her hands were shaking and the tears made it hard for her to see the switch. Once she got the key in, she looked at Allen and turned the key. The engine started. In front of her: clear sailing.

HEAT

Now Iverson is nearly ready to leave the locker room, and his shadows are ready too. The two bodyguards, Kevin Baker and Terry Royster—an ex-cop and a black-belt jujitsu champion, respectively—take their positions for the perilous 100-foot walk to the gated, guarded players' parking lot. They are not buddies, not uncles, not posse. They're professionals whom Iverson had never met until he hired them after he was busted last summer while riding shotgun in his Mercedes-Benz at 93 mph. Police allegedly found a joint on his seat and, under the seat, a 9-mm Glock handgun for which Iverson had a license but not the proper permit for concealment. All charges were dropped, on two conditions: that Iverson complete 100 hours of community service this summer and that he pass monthly drug tests for the duration of his two-year probation. (He has passed all six tests so far.)

"That was so stupid," he says of the incident. "It was such poor judgment." Iverson says he'd just written a rhyme (he wants to rap professionally and set up his own record company) and was with a guy he hardly knew who said he could take Iverson to a recording studio in Richmond and lay down a track.

"I let this guy I never been with drive my car!" Iverson says, slapping his palm to his forehead. "I mean, I don't know what the guy has on him! I don't know where his studio is! I don't know if he even knows how to drive a Benz!" Iverson says he fell asleep on the hourlong drive from Hampton and was awakened by the sickening sight of red-and-blue lights flashing all around him.

What bothered Iverson most about the incident was the danger in which he had put himself and, therefore, all the people who depend on him. "If that car had crashed, I'd have put my family right back where they'd come from. From then on, I decided I gotta be smart."

Now the bodyguards call the shots. "If some club looks bad, even if we been there only one minute, and my guys say we gotta go, that's it," Iverson says. Not that where he goes these days is all that scary. "Red Lobster, my house," he says. Get ready! He's going for the drawn butter!

There are signs that Iverson's game is growing up a little, too. After a 95-83 loss to the Knicks on Dec. 13, Iverson looked at his numbers for the night—8-for-20 shooting, including 1-for-6 from three-point range, only two assists—crumpled up the stat sheet and said in disgust, "I played tonight like I played last year." Hey, progress! More recently he actually said, "We're not out of the playoffs yet." Writers almost dropped their Bics. It was the first time he had mentioned his team in months.

"I see improvement in his game," Magic center Danny Schayes says. "Last year he didn't even look up." At week's end Iverson's shooting accuracy was three points higher than last season's 41.6%, and his turnovers were down. Last year he led the league in turnovers (337, or 4.43 per game), but this season, through February, he ranked 13th (3.19 per game). That's big, but the coolest stat to see would be an increase in smiles per game.

Iverson's public persona is a big lie. Relatives and friends constantly describe him as "hilarious," an "incredibly funny cartoonist," a cutup who does "these amazing impressions of people," a "ham" who "won't shut up." But in public Iverson is dour and quiet. Only when a question engages his interest does he give you a glimpse of his true self, arms going up and down and sentences never meeting a period. Otherwise, interviewing him is like interviewing plaster of paris.

One day in December the Sixers were filming a Christmas public-service announcement, and all the players were gathered around the a cappella group Az Yet. At one point the singers handed the microphone to the players, and nearly every Sixer tried to pass it to Iverson. "He never stops singing on the bus," said one player. But Iverson kept handing the mike back. The message was obvious. To punish the outside world, Iverson won't give himself to it, won't share himself. In many ways he's still that 18-year-old kid reading the papers in prison and crying. Will he ever get over it?

Lambiotte told him something one day during her tutelage: "All these things you have been given—you're good-looking, you're loaded with personality and charisma, you've got this incredible athletic ability, marvelous artistic ability, you love people—it's almost like God made a mistake here, giving one person too much. What are you going to do with all this, Allen? What will you do with it?"

'PHONES

Iverson is ready for the final touch, the barrier that protects him more than the bodyguards and the Benz and the shoe-company chaperones. He slips his CD player into his pocket, puts on his big, round headphones and cranks Notorious B.I.G. He steps out of the quiet of the locker room, out of the quiet of sustained losing and into a hallway of flashes and pens and whispers of "That's him." He swims through the worshippers and the vilifiers, his head down, a kid who has been labeled irresponsible when, in fact, he is burdened by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. He carries on, unsmiling, until a three-year-old girl runs at him, and his eyes light up and the headphones come off and his leather coat opens up and the little girl climbs in. He kisses Tiaura maybe 100 times in five minutes, until he must hand her back to her mother and get on the bus to another city, hotel, game.

Waiting outside the arena is a young black man, Vincent Vaughn, who couldn't afford a ticket to the game but wants a glimpse of his hero. "They don't want him in the NBA," Vaughn says. "It's so obvious! They don't like his braids, they don't like his clothes. They're just usin' him, man. But to me, he's the bomb. He overcame everything." Just then the bus drives by, and Vaughn hungrily searches every window until he sees Iverson in the last. He gives his idol the coolest of nods and a smile. Iverson nods back. They're two 22-year-olds going in different directions, their paths still fresh, one of them as free as the wind.


avavalis
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Another GREAT find Aamir.

Another GREAT find Aamir. Congrats !

Mr. 19134
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At the end of the day, nobody

At the end of the day, nobody can say they did it "My Way" except AI. To attain a certain level of success, fame and fortune you have to sell out a little bit and do things that are not you. Iverson didn't which is the only reason he's not in the league still but at the same time, his run was more then breathtaking, it changed the world. Literally!

The younger generation who grew up with braids, tats, and sleeved elbows as the norm don't realize how far fetched all this was when A.I. entered the league. He was so good with a basketball in his hands though nobody could or wanted to stop him. Even today, nobody compares to the speed that AI possessed when he entered the league, not Rose, Wall or Westbrook would of been able to stay in front of AI in his prime. Heck Rose couldn't stay infront of AI during his last tour with the Sixers he had arthritic knees.

Mr. 19134
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It does make you wonder how

It does make you wonder how good AI would of been if he practiced and worked on his game. If he even put in half the work Kobe does on his game he might of been able to reach Jordan status. As it was AI didn't practice, and smoked pot which isn't a secret, and he still is top 3 in NBA History in scoring average per game. Just imagine if he talked more about practice, not a game, not the game that he went out and bled for, but if he actually did that in practice too.

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