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Iverson, Allen

Allen Iverson

1975-

American basketball player

At six-feet, 160 pounds, Allen Iverson is one of the smallest players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). But opposing teams can't stop what they can't see, and by all accounts, Iverson is as fast as they come. His lightening speed, prolific scoring ability, and tough competitiveness took his Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 NBA championship series. Yet Iverson's image as a hip-hop "bad boy" follows him around like a shadow. Covered in tattoos, dressed in baggy clothes, weighed down by diamonds and gold, and never seen with his hair out of its tightly braided rows, Iverson's unconventional and controversial style is unmatched in the NBA.

Tough Beginnings

Allen Iverson was born on June 7, 1975 in Hampton, Virginia. His mother, Ann Iverson, was fifteen years old when her son was born. Iverson's father, Allen Broughton, never had much contact with his son. Iverson's childhood was filled with constant hardship. As an infant he and his mother depended on his maternal grandmother, but soon after his birth she died from complications after surgery. Michael Freeman, who moved in with the family when Iverson was young, served as

Iverson's father and taught him the game of basketball. But Freeman moved in and out of jail after a work-related accident caused him to lose his job, and he turned to distributing illegal drugs.

Iverson and his two half-sisters lived with his mother in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of Hampton. When his mother couldn't afford to pay the bills, the family would go without water, lights, and heat. A ruptured sewer line under the house filled it with a noxious smell and would sometimes seep onto the floor. Iverson spent his childhood dreaming of making things better for his family, but everything around him pulled him back into the ghetto. During his youth eight of his friends were murdered, including his best friend.

Despite poor school attendance, frequent confrontations with teachers, and troubles at home, Iverson kept it together just enough to be eligible to participate in sports. Football was his first love. As quarterback at Bethel High School, Iverson, nicknamed Bubbachuck by his friends, led the team to the state Class AAA football title in 1992. Only after his mother encouraged him did Iverson agree to try basketball, and the game soon replaced football as his favorite sport. Early on Iverson believed that basketball would be his ticket out of the slums. He had what he called "the Plan," to make it through high school, get to college, and earn a place in the NBA. Most warned him of his slim chance for success, but Iverson was determined.

First Legal Troubles

It appeared that Iverson's promise to someday buy his mother a red Corvette would go unfulfilled after the seventeen-year-old was arrested on February 14, 1993 for being involved in a mob scene at a local bowling alley. Iverson was hanging out with friends when a confrontation quickly developed into a large brawl divided along racial lines. Accused of throwing a chair that hit a woman, knocking her unconscious, Iverson was charged and tried as an adult. Although he had no previous criminal record, he was sentenced to five years in prison and denied bail pending an appeal. Of approximately fifty people involved in the incident, only four arrests were made; all four were black, causing accusations of racism. Iverson, who denies any direct involvement in the incident, spent four months in prison before being granted conditional release by the governor of Virginia. Two years later the conviction was overturned in a state appeals court due to insufficient evidence, and the crime was stricken from Iverson's record.

Refusing to be detoured from his plans for the NBA, Iverson continued to hone his basketball skills and spent five days a week with a tutor to earn his high school diploma. After passing his final exams in 1994, Iverson accepted an athletic scholarship to Georgetown University. As a member of the Georgetown Hoyas, Iverson immediately became the team's star. During his freshman year he averaged twenty points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 steals per game and was named the 1995 Big East Rookie of the Year and Big East Defensive Player of the Year. His performance was equally impressive during his sophomore year, and he was once again named Big East Defensive Player of the Year as well as named to the Associated Press's 1996 First Team All-American.

Rookie of the Year

Selected as the first overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson quickly became the team's leader and one of the premiere point guards in the country. His $9.4-million contract was an instant ticket out of poverty for him and his family. During his rookie season, he led his team in per-game statistics, including points (23.5), assists (7.5), steals (2.1), and minutes played (40.1). During the final eight games of the season he averaged thirty-nine points per game, and on April 12, in a 125-118 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he became the second youngest player in NBA history to score fifty points in a game. (Iverson was twenty-one years, 310 days; Rick Barry scored fifty-plus at the age of twenty-one years, 261 days). He was named Rookie of the Year. In his second season, Iverson moved from the point guard position to shooting guard, which provided him with even more opportunities to score. In his third year in the NBA, he clinched the NBA scoring title for the 1999 season with 26.8 points per game and was named to the All-NBA First Team.

Questions about "The Answer"

While Iverson, who became known as "The Answer," was developing a reputation for his lightening speed and cross-over drill that could break down most defenses, he was also receiving his share of negative attention. On the court Iverson was criticized for selfish play and poor decision-making that led to off-balanced shots and turnovers. Critics pointed to Iverson's poor shooting percentage and large number of turnovers. Charles Barkley ruefully called him Allen Me-Myself-and-Iverson. He also came under fire for a perceived lack of respect for the NBA's veteran players. His cockiness and trash talk on the floor only added fuel to the fire. During his first years in the NBA, Iverson was notorious for missing practices, showing up late, and leaving early. His choice of clothesbaggy pants, pounds of gold jewelry, and a 'do rag'fueled the media's talk of Iverson's past and annoyed his coach Larry Brown, who was also concerned about the friends Iverson chose to hang out with off the court.

Chronology

1975 Born June 7 in Hampton, Virginia
1992 Star quarterback for Bethel High School; wins AAA Division title
1993 Arrested for assault; spends four months incarcerated
1994-96 Star point guard for the University of Georgetown Hoyas
1996 Drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as first overall pick
1997 Arrested for marijuana and weapons charges after being pulled over for speeding
1999 Wins National Basketball Association (NBA) scoring title but conflicts on and off the court lead to trade rumors
2000 Release of single from debut rap album is criticized for treatment of women and gays
2001 Leads 76ers to NBA championship series; marries Tawanna Turner
2001-02 Earns NBA scoring title in back-to-back years
2002 Faces assault charges after an altercation with his wife; charges are later dropped

Southern Discomfort

Last Saturday 150 protesters marched through Hampton, chanting, "Free the Hampton Four" and "No justice, no peace," and singing, "Which Side Are You On?" The moving force behind the demonstrations is a group called SWIS, an acronym for Simmons, Wynn, Iverson, and Stephens. To a large degree, the group is responsible for turning the case into a national cause celebre. Tom Brokaw, USA Today, The Washington Post they've all gone down, as have the SCLC and the NAACP, which set up a local office to monitor the case. Some SWIS supportersand there are more than 3,000 throughout the countrydescribe the case as a "judicial lynching" of "uppity" blacks by the white establishment. "Let's be honest," says Joyce Hopson, the Hampton teacher who heads the SWIS, "if this weren't Allen Iverson, these kids don't go to jail. That's it."

Source: Sports Illustrated 79 (October 25, 1993): 46.

The public's reaction to his attire, braided hair, and twenty-one tattoos frustrated Iverson. He told Sports Illustrated, "I got rows, but that don't mean I'm no gangbanger. I ain't never been in a gang. Why do people want to judge me like that?" For Iverson his appearance is simply part of who he is, and serves as a reminder that he will not forget where he came from. While the NBA establishment shakes its collective head in disbelief, Iverson is a hero and an idol to youth around the nation who don the same oversized clothes and braid their hair into rows. His endorsement of Reebok products was highly successful, and Reebok's signature Iverson shoe was a hot seller in the mid-1990s.

Although he insists that he has often been unfairly judged, Iverson's arrest in 1997 on marijuana and firearms charges did little to enhance his image. Iverson was pulled over for speeding, and the trooper discovered a marijuana cigarette and a .45-caliber pistol in the car. Iverson insisted that the joint belonged to the two other men in the car, but admitted that he had used very poor judgment.

By the end of the 1997-98 season Brown was fed up with his young star's poor work ethic, increasing focus on off-court matters such as his Reebok responsibilities, and his aspirations as a rap artist. Rumors began to circulate that a trade was in the works. Eventually Iverson and Brown, both known for their stubborn, determined natures, developed a working, if sometimes volatile, relationship, and in January of 1999 Iverson re-signed with the 76ers for $70.9 million over six years. "When I first got him, I couldn't tell him anything," Brown told Sports Illustrated. "He went crazy on the court. Now he'll listen a little bit." After winning the 1999 NBA scoring title with 26.8 points per game, in October of 2000 Iverson was once again the center of controversy when he released a single of a rap album he cut under his artist name Jewelz. "40 Bars" came under fire for numerous derogatory references to women and gays. Eventually Iverson agreed not to release the full album.

New Focus

During the 2000-01 season Iverson showed a new sense of maturity. He arrived for practices on time, fulfilled team obligations, and began involving his teammates in the offense. He averaged 31.1 points and 4.6 assists per game. Because his teammates were also getting their shots, thanks to Iverson's decision to pass the ball sometimes rather than shoot every time it touched his hands, the 76ers began to see themselves as a team, a team with a shot at an NBA title. They made it into the 2001 NBA finals, but lost the title bid to the Los Angeles Lakers. Iverson was named the NBA Most Valuable Player. The following year he improved to 31.4 points and 5.5 assists per game, and for the second year in a row and the third time in his career, Iverson won the NBA scoring title.

In August of 2001 Iverson married long-time girlfriend Tawanna Turner, with whom he already had two children, a daughter Tiaura, born during Iverson's days at Georgetown, and a son, Allen II, born three years later. Once again Iverson made the news in July of 2002 when he faced arrest on criminal charges stemming from an altercation with his wife that allegedly resulted in Iverson carrying a handgun on a hunt to track down his wife, who had failed to return after Iverson kicked her out of their house. Charges were eventually dropped.

Iverson has more than proven himself as a basketball player, but how history writes the final chapters of his life in the NBA remains an uncertainty. Some view him a "bad boy" from the ghetto who could never leave trouble behind; others see a basically good person who occasionally makes bad decisions and has been unfairly vilified by the press. Iverson has, certainly, fulfilled his "Plan." He bought his mother a red Corvette, as well as a new house, and financially supports an extended family. Evidence of his ongoing impact on the American culture is Reebok's decision in 2002 to extend Iverson's $50 million, 10-year endorsement contract.

Awards and Accomplishments

1995 Big East Rookie of the Year, Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and Big East All Rookie Team
1996 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All American, and First Team Big East; selected first overall in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the Philadelphia 76ers
1997 NBA Rookie of the Year and All Rookie First Team
1999 First Team All NBA and led the NBA in scoring with 26.8 points per game (ppg)
2000 Second Team All NBA
2000-02 Selected to the NBA All Star Team
2001 NBA Most Valuable Player and First Team All NBA; NBA leader in scoring with 31.1 ppg
2002 NBA leader in scoring (31.4 ppg), steals (2.80 per game), and minutes played (42.7 per game); named to Second Team All NBA

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Philadelphia 76ers, 1 Corestates Complex, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19148. Phone: (215) 339-7676.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 24. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000.

Newsmakers Issue 4. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Sports Stars. Series 1-4. Detroit: UXL, 1994-98.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Periodicals

"Allen Iverson Clinches NBA Scoring Title." Jet (May 24, 1999): 48.

Ballantini, Brett. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Iverson." Basketball Digest (May 2001): 26.

"Basketball's Bad Boy." Newsweek (November 6, 2000): 58.

Bradley, Michael. "Can He Last?" Sporting News (April 2, 2001): 40.

D'Alessandro, Dave. "Iverson Hasn't Changed; He Has Changed Us." Sporting News (June 18, 2001): 26.

Edelson, Mark. "You Don't Know The Answer." Sport (April 2000): 28

Montville, Leigh. "Flash Point." Sports Illustrated (December 9, 1996): 58.

"NBA Rookie of the Year Arrested on Marijuana and Firearm Charges." Jet (August 18, 1997): 53.

Pearlman, Jeff. "It's About Time." Sports Illustrated (November 13, 2000): 44.

Reilly, Rick. "Counter Point." Sports Illustrated (March 9, 1998): 82.

Rushin, Steve. "No. 3 with a Bullet." Sports Illustrated October 23, 2000): 21.

Samuels, Allison. "Will Iverson Foul Out?" Newsweek (July 22, 2002): 32.

Smallwood, John, Jr. "Brotherly Love Like." Basketball Digest (March 2001): 46.

Smallwood, John, Jr. "The Right Answer." Basketball Digest (Summer 2001): 26.

Smith, Gary. "Mama's Boys." Sports Illustrated (April 23, 2001): 54.

Starr, Mark, and Allison Samuels. "Going Hard to the Hoop: Allen Iverson is Talent and Tumult: Which Will Win?" Newsweek (October 27, 1997): 52-53.

Taylor, Phil. "A Turn For the Better." Sports Illustrated (March 15, 1999): 42+.

Tyrangiel, Josh. "Little Big Man." Time (September 17, 2001): 65.

Zeman, Ned. "Southern Discomfort." Sports Illustrated (October 25, 1993): 46.

Other

"Allen Iverson." National Basketball Association. http://www.nba.com/ (December 11, 2002)

"Allen Iverson." Sports Stats.com. http://www.sportsstats.com/bball/national/players/1990/Allen_Iverson/ (December 10, 2002)

Sketch by Kari Bethel

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP PTS PPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG TO
PHIL: Philadelphia 76ers.
1997 PHIL 76 1787 23.5 .416 .341 .702 4.1 7.5 2.1 337
1998 PHIL 80 1758 22.0 .461 .298 .729 3.7 6.2 2.2 244
1999 PHIL 48 1284 26.8 .412 .291 .751 4.9 4.6 2.3 167
2000 PHIL 70 1989 28.4 .421 .341 .713 3.8 4.7 2.1 230
2001 PHIL 71 2207 31.1 .420 .320 .814 3.8 4.6 2.5 237
2002 PHIL 60 1883 31.4 .398 .291 .812 4.5 5.5 2.8 237
TOTAL 405 10908 26.9 .421 .318 .756 4.1 5.6 2.3 1452

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Iverson, Allen 1975–

Allen Iverson 1975

Professional basketball player

At a Glance

Entered the NBA

Developed Personally and Professionally

Sources

Allen Iverson, perhaps the quickest player ever to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA), was born on June 7, 1975, in Hampton, Virginia. His mother Ann Iverson was a teenager and was deserted by Iversons father. Soon after her son was born, Ann Iversons mother died, leaving the young mother and son to fend for themselves. Iverson grew up in severe poverty in a house that sometimes had no electricity or water. Sports offered an outlet for the immensely gifted young athlete and he excelled in football, baseball, and basketball. Though he is arguably the best player in the NBA today, Iverson told Leigh Montville of Sports Illustrated that basketball was not his first choice: I always figured I was going to go to one of those big football schools. Florida State. Notre Dame. Football was my first love. Still is. I was going to go to one of those schools and play both. I just loved running the option, faking, throwing the ball, everything about football. I didnt even want to play basketball at first. I thought it was soft. My mothers the one who made me go to tryouts. I thank her forever. I came back and said I like basketball, too. Iverson cruised through high school doing just well enough in the classroom to stay eligible for sports. In his senior year he led Bethel High Schools football team to a state championship. He was excelling in basketball also until the night of February 13, 1993. Iverson and some friends were at a bowling alley when a fight broke out which then escalated into a brawl divided along racial lines. Of the 50 or so participants involved in the fight, only four black teenagers were chargedone of them Iverson. Though video of the incident did not show Iverson at all and he testified that he left the bowling alley when the brawl started, two other witnesses said that he threw a chair at a woman. The 17-year-old was tried as an adult and sentenced to five years in prison for maiming by mob.

Iverson went to jail for four months before the governor of Virginia commuted his sentence under the condition that he not play organized sports until he graduated from high school. Two years later his conviction was overturned by the State Court of Appeals. Though the incident is erased from his legal record, it made him even more determined to succeed for his family. Iverson told Sports Illustrateds Rick Reilly about his motivation: I knew I had to succeed for them. People would say, Man, thats a million-to-one shot to make it to the NBA, but Id say Not for me it aint. Cause if I didnt succeed, well, I dont wanna think about it. I thought, for all the sufferin theyve done, they need me to make it. They oughta have some satisfaction in life. Iverson suddenly became serious about school and worked all the way through the summer at a rigorous learning center to make up his lost class work.

After high school, Iverson attended Georgetown University. The freshman would earn the Big East Rookie of the Year award after leading his team with 20 points and 4.5 assists per game. His sophomore season was better. He drove the Hoyas to a 29-8 record, averaging 25 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 steals per game. Iverson, who started 66 of 67 games as a Hoya, was also named Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995 and named an Associated Press (AP) First Team All-American in 1995. Despite his success and enjoyment of college life, after two years at

At a Glance

Born Allen Ezail Iverson on June 7, 1975, in Hampton, VA; son of Allen Broughton and Ann Iverson (a factory and shipyard worker); married Tawanna; children: Tiaura, Allen II, and Isaiah. Education: Attended Georgetown University.

Career: Philadelphia 76ers, professional basketball player, 1996.

Awards: Big East Rookie of the Year, 1995; Big East Defensive Player of the Year, 1995, 1996; first team AP All-American, 1996; NBA Rookie of the Year, 1997; All-NBA first team, 1999; Eastern Conference All-Star Team, 2000-2004.

Addresses: Officec/o The Philadelphia 76ers, 3601 South Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19148.

Georgetown he knew it was time to leave. His family was still living in poverty back in Hampton, and he now had a daughter Tiara to think about. His sophomore season at Georgetown would be his last in college.

Entered the NBA

On June 26, 1996, Iverson was the first player selected in the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He signed a $9.4 million contract and set his sights on becoming the best player in the NBA. If he was not the best on the court in his first season, Iverson quickly established himself as one of the most exciting players in the league. His crossover dribble proved to be so explosive that the NBA issued a memo to referees across the league addressing one individual players single move. Iverson had to change his crossover dribble slightly to avoid travelling but that did not diminish his achievements. He led his team and all NBA rookies in points (23.5), assists (7.5), steals (2.07), and in minutes played (40.1) per game. His coach Johnny Davis told Montville of Sports Illustrated: Hes as quick with the ball as anyone in the history of the league. Hes a combination of Isiah Thomas and Tiny Archibald. Fast guys in this league, he makes them look as if theyre slow. He has a level beyond their quickness. Iverson was named Rookie of the Year and was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Rookie All-Star game during the NBAs All-Star weekend. Despite his success, Iverson came under some harsh criticism. His penchant for taking off-balanced shots, sometimes before looking for teammates, coupled with a poor shooting percentage for a point guard (.416), and his turnovers, prompted some to label him selfishespecially among the leagues old guard. Charles Barkley called him Me-Myself-and-Iverson. His loyalty to the shoe company Reebok, which erected a 40-foot mural of Iverson in downtown Philadelphia, prompted his next coach Larry Brown to openly question his devotion to the 76ers. And then the league fretted about Iversons image. Instead of suits and ties, the 20-year-old opted for baggy pants, mountains of jewelry, and do-ragslike many other young people of his generation. The league even questioned his choice of friends who remained with him from his days in Hampton. But Iverson told Sports Illustrateds Montville that his loyalty would remain firm: The NBA cant pick my friends. When I was struggling growing up, no running water in my house, the electric lights turned off, these were the guys who were with me. They grew up with me. Im not going to turn my back on them now. Not many people were always angels as they grew up. These are the guys who wont always be telling me how great I am. They know me.

The league and other critics seemed to be proved correct in the off-season after Iversons rookie year. Iverson was on his way to record a rap song at a local Richmond recording studio; a man offered to drive him there, and Iverson fell asleep around midnight on the way there. Police pulled over Iversons car after it was clocked at 93 miles per hour and allegedly found marijuana and a handgun in the Mercedes. Iverson was arrested but all charges were dropped after he was given two years probation with monthly drug tests and 100 hours of community service. Iverson told Sports Illustrateds Reilly about the incident: That was so stupid. It was such poor judgment If that car had crashed, Id have put my family right back where theyd come from. From then on, I decided I gotta be smart.

Iverson vowed to put his past behind him and even hired two bodyguards to help him make better decisions socially. The 76ers brought in veteran coach Larry Brown to help tutor Iverson as a point guard. Though the two had their moments of frustration, Iverson improved his game. He led Philadelphia in every offensive category and finished eighth in the league in scoring with 22 points per game and eleventh in minutes played with 39.4 a game. He scored in double figures in 74 of his 80 games and improved his shooting percentage to .461. Though the 76ers improved in the 1997-98 season, coach Brown thought the team and its star punctured could do better. The following season, he switched Iverson from point guard to shooting guard to relieve some of the pressure of bringing the ball up court. Even though he played against taller opponents, Iverson and his team had a breakout year. Iverson led the NBA in scoring with 26.8 points per game and in minutes played. He was named to the All-NBA first team and scored in double figures in 46 of 48 games. The season was not without controversy, though, when Iverson was on the bench and Brown told him to go back in during an April second game; Iverson cursed at having been held out of the game for so long, and Brown sat him for the rest of the contest. Iverson then missed the following game citing a hamstring injury. But ironically the incident seemed to help relations between the two stubborn men. Iverson apologized and later told Sports Illustrateds Michael Bamberger: Coach and myself, weve come a long way. We started off rocky. Now were friends. More importantly the 76ers finished the lockout-shortened season 28-22 and made the play-offs. The sixth-seeded Philadelphia team proceeded to defeat the third-seeded Orlando Magic three games to one. Iverson dominated the series averaging 28.3 points a game during the first round. Though Philadelphia was swept by the Indiana Pacers in the following round, Iverson had returned playoff basketball to Philadelphia.

Developed Personally and Professionally

Iverson approached the 1999-2000 season as a seemingly different individual. Fresh off his post-season success and a new six-year multi-million dollar contract, Iverson left the bodyguards and much of the controversy behind him. He found himself more concerned with his two children, and instead of two bodyguards, he often traveled with his mother. He became fully committed to his team, telling Ken Berger of the Associated Press, Ill do anything to help this team win, I dont care what it is. Ill do anything it takes to get a championship. I think Coach Brown knows what it takes to get there.

Iverson continued to shine in the NBA. He was selected for the All-NBA first team in both 1999 and 2001, and for the second team in 2000, 2002, and 2003. And at the 2001, All-Star game he was named the Most Valuable Player. That same year he was named the Most Valuable Player for the NBA for being the leagues leading scorer and stealer for the season. Iverson was the NBA scoring champion in 1999, 2001, and 2002. He ended the longest streak of double-figure scoring in NBA history on March 20, 2003. Over 186 games from November 24, 2000, to the March 20 game against the Detroit Pistons, Iverson had averaged 32.1 points per game. The Pistons ended his streak by holding him to just five points that game. That year, the Sixers signed a multiyear contract extension with Iverson, signaling that his dream of being a Sixer would continue. Iverson announced at a press conference that I always wanted to be a Sixer. I always wanted to finish my career as a Sixer It just means a lot to me that I could be in a Sixers uniform for the rest of my career, according to Sixers.com. Sixers President and General Manager Billy King responded, saying With this contract, were telling him we always want him to be here as well.

In 2004, Iversons play helped qualify the USA Basketball Mens Senior National team qualify for the Olympics. His superior play and stamina was rewarded in playing time. That year he ranked first in the NBA for playing time, averaging 42.5 minutes per game. Iverson also hit two personal records in 2004; on January 23rd, he became the tenth fastest player to score 14,000 points in NBA history and on February 19th he scored 40 points in a single game for the fiftieth time in his career.

Although a variety of injuries kept him from playing 21 games during the 2004 season, he was ready to get back in shape when he made a surprise appearance at a workout for 76er rookies and free agents in July. Iverson remarked to Sixers.com that it was fun just getting back into it, adding: When you dont play the game for a while and then you are able to play it again, its kind of like a kid in the candy store. You kind of forget what you have been missing, not playing the game. With his body healed, Iverson was primed to start the next season as strong as ever.

Sources

Books

Platt, Larry, Only the Strong Survive: The Odyssey of Allen Iverson, ReganBooks, 2002.

Schmidt Jr., Charles E., Allen Iverson. Chelsea House Publishers: Philadelphia, PA. 1998.

Smallwood, John N., Jr., Allen Iverson: Fear No One, Pocket Books, 2001.

Periodicals

Basketball Digest, May 2001; Summer 2001.

Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1999.

Newsweek, July 22, 2002.

Sporting News, April 2, 1001; June 18, 2001; February 18, 2002.

Sports Illustrated, December 9, 1996; March 9, 1998; May 24, 1999; April 23, 2001; May 28, 2001; June 18, 2001; October 29, 2001; July 29, 2002.

On-line

NBA, www.nba.com (July 27, 2004).

Allen Iverson: I Always Wanted to Be a Sixer, Sixers.com www.nba.com/sixers/features/iverson_030924.html (July 27, 2004).

Workout News and Notes, Sixers.com www.nba.com/sixers/summer_league/workouts_040702.html#iverson (July 27, 2004).

Michael J. Watkins and Sara Pendergast

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Iverson, Allen 1975–

Allen Iverson 1975

Professional basketball player

At a Glance

Iverson at Georgetown

NBA Rookie of the Year

Off-Season Controversy

Sources

Allen Iverson, perhaps the quickest player ever to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was born on June 7, 1975 in Hampton, VA. His mother Ann Iverson was a teenager and was deserted by Iversons father. Soon after her son was born, Ann Iversons mother died, leaving the young mother and son to fend for themselves. Iverson grew up in severe poverty in a house that sometimes had no electricity or water. Sports offered an outlet for the immensely gifted young athlete and he excelled in football, baseball, and basketball. Though he is arguably the best player in the NBA today, Iverson told Leigh Montville of Sports Illustrated that basketball was not his first choice: I always figured I was going to go to one of those big football schools. Florida State. Notre Dame. Football was my first love. Still is. I was going to go to one of those schools and play both. I just loved running the option, faking, throwing the ball, everything about football. I didnt even want to play basketball at first. I thought it was soft. My mothers the one who made me go to tryouts. I thank her forever. I came back and said I like basketball, too. Iverson cruised through high school doing just well enough in the classroom to stay eligible for sports. In his senior year he led Bethel High Schools football team to a state championship. He was excelling in basketball also until the night of February 13,1993. Iverson and some friends were at a bowling alley when a fight broke out which then escalated into a brawl divided along racial lines. Of the 50 or so participants involved in the fight, only four black teenagers were chargedone of them Iverson. Though video of the incident did not show Iverson at all and he testified that he left the bowling alley when the brawl started, two other witnesses said that he threw a chair at a woman. The 17-year-old was tried as an adult and sentenced to five years in prison for maiming by mob.

Iverson went to jail for four months before the governor of Virginia commuted his sentence under the condition that he not play organized sports until he graduated from high school. Two years later his conviction was overturned by the State Court of Appeals. Though the incident is erased from his legal record, it made him even more determined to succeed for his family. Iverson told Sports Illustrateds Rick Reilly about his motivation: I knew I had to succeed for them. People would say, Man, thats a million-to-one shot to make it to the NBA, but Id say Not for me it aint. Cause if I didnt succeed,

At a Glance

Born Allen Ezail Iverson, June 7, 1975 in Hampton, VA; son of Allen Broughton and Ann Iverson (a factory and shipyard worker); children: Tiara and Allen II; Education: Attended Georgetown University.

Career: Iverson starred in football, basketball, and baseball at Bethel High School, 199093; Iverson was arrested and convicted after a bowling alley brawl. Served four months in prison before Virginia governor commutes his sentence, 1993; star point guard for Georgetown University, 199495,199596; first player chosen in the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, 1996; sentenced to two years probation after police found marijuana and a handgun in his car; switched from point guard to shooting guard, 1997; led team to playoffs, 199899.

Awards: Big East Rookie of the Year, 1995; Big East Defensive Player of the Year, 1995,1996; first team AP All-American, 1996; NBA Rookie of the Year, 1997; All-NBA first team, 1999.

Addresses: Residence Philadelphia, PA; Mailingd o The Philadelphia 76ers, 3601 South Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19148.

well, I dont wanna think about it. I thought, for all the sufferin theyve done, they need me to make it. They oughta have some satisfaction in life. Iverson suddenly became serious about school and worked all the way through the summer at a rigorous learning center to make up his lost class work.

Iverson at Georgetown

After high school, Iverson attended Georgetown University. The freshman would earn the Big East Rookie of the Year award after leading his team with 20 points and 4.5 assists per game. His sophomore season was better. He drove the Hoyas to a 298 record, averaging 25 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 steals per game. Iverson, who started 66 of 67 games as a Hoya, was also named Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 and 1995 and named an Associated Press (AP) First Team All-American in 1995. Despite his success and enjoyment of college life, after two years at Georgetown he knew it was time to leave. His family was still living in poverty back in Hampton, and he now had a daughter Tiara to think about. His sophomore season at Georgetown would be his last in college.

NBA Rookie of the Year

On June 26, 1996 Iverson was the first player selected in the NBA draft by the Philidelphia 76ers. He signed a $9.4 million contract and set his sights on becoming the best player in the NBA. If he was not the best on the court in his first season, Iverson quickly established himself as one of the most exciting players in the league. His crossover dribble proved to be so explosive that the NBA issued a memo to referees across the league addressing one individual players single move. Iverson had to change his crossover dribble slightly to avoid travelling but that did not diminish his achievements. He led his team and all NBA rookies in points (23.5), assists (7.5), steals (2.07), and in minutes played (40.1) per game. His coach Johnny Davis told Montville of Sports Illustrated: Hes as quick with the ball as anyone in the history of the league. Hes a combination of Isiah Thomas and Tiny Archibald. Fast guys in this league, he makes them look as if theyre slow. He has a level beyond their quickness. Iverson was named Rookie of the Year and was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Rookie All-Star game during the NBAs All-Star weekend. Despite his success, Iverson came under some harsh criticism. His penchant for taking off-balanced shots, sometimes before looking for teammates, coupled with a poor shooting percentage for a point guard (.416), and his turnovers, prompted some to label him selfishespecially among the leagues old guard. Charles Barkley called him Me-Myself-and-Iverson. His loyalty to the shoe company Reebok, which erected a 40-foot mural of Iverson in downtown Philadelphia, prompted his next coach Larry Brown to openly question his devotion to the 76ers. And then the league fretted about Iversons image. Instead of suits and ties, the 20-year-old opted for baggy pants, mountains of jewelry, and do-ragslike many other young people of his generation. The league even questioned his choice of friends who remained with him from his days in Hampton. But Iverson told Sports Illustrateds Montville that his loyalty would remain firm: The NBA cant pick my friends. When I was struggling growing up, no running water in my house, the electric lights turned off, these were the guys who were with me. They grew up with me. Im not going to turn my back on them now. Not many people were always angels as they grew up. These are the guys who wont always be telling me how great I am. They know me.

Off-Season Controversy

The league and other critics seemed to be proved correct in the off-season after Iversons rookie year. Iverson was on his way to record a rap song at a local Richmond recording studio; a man offered to drive him there, and Iverson fell asleep around midnight on the way there. Police pulled over Iversons car after it was clocked at 93 miles per hour and allegedly found marijuana and a handgun in the Mercedes. Iverson was arrested but all charges were dropped after he was given two years probation with monthly drug tests and 100 hours of community service. Iverson told Sports Illustrateds Reilly about the incident: That was so stupid. It was such poor judgment If that car had crashed, Id have put my family right back where theyd come from. From then on, I decided I gotta be smart.

Iverson vowed to put his past behind him and even hired two bodyguards to help him make better decisions socially. The 76ers brought in veteran coach Larry Brown to help tutor Iverson as a pointguard. Though the two had their moments of frustration, Iverson improved his game. He led Philadelphia in every offensive category and finished eighth in the league in scoring with 22 points per game and eleventh in minutes played with 39.4 a game. He scored in double figures in 74 of his 80 games and improved his shooting percentage to .461. Though the 76ers improved in the 199798 season, coach Brown thought the team and its star pointguard could do better. The following season, he switched Iverson from point guard to shooting guard to relieve some of the pressure of bringing the ball up court. Even though he played against taller opponents, Iverson and his team had a breakout year. Iverson led the NBA in scoring with 26.8 points per game and in minutes played. He was named to the All-NBA first team and scored in double figures in 46 of 48 games. The season was not without controversy, though, when Iverson was on the bench and Brown told him to go back in during an April second game; Iverson cursed at having been held out of the game for so long, and Brown sat him for the rest of the contest. Iverson then missed the following game citing a hamstring injury. But ironically the incident seemed to help relations between the two stubborn men. Iverson apologized and later told Sports Illustrateds Michael Bamberger: Coach and myself, weve come a long way. We started off rocky. Now were friends. More importantly the 76ers finished the lockout-shortened season 2822 and made the playoffs. The sixth-seeded Philadelphia team proceeded to defeat the third-seeded Orlando Magic three games to one. Iverson dominated the series averaging 28.3 points a game during the first round. Though Philadelphia was swept by the Indiana Pacers in the following round, Iverson had returned playoff basketball to Philadelphia.

Iverson approached the 19992000 season as a seemingly different individual. Fresh off his post-season success and a new six-year multimillion dollar contract, Iverson has left the bodyguards and much of the controversy behind him. He finds himself more concerned with his two children now, and instead of two bodyguards, he often travels with his mother. He also has become fully committed to his team telling Ken Berger of the Associated Press, Ill do anything to help this team win, I dont care what it is. Ill do anything it takes to get a championship. I think Coach Brown knows what it takes to get there.

Sources

Books

Schmidt Jr, Charles E., Allen Iverson. Chelsea House Publishers: Philadelphia, PA. 1998.

Periodicals

The Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1999.

Sports Illustrated, December 9, 1996; March 9, 1998; May 24, 1999.

Online

http://www.nba.com/playerfile/bio/allen_iverson.html.

Michael J. Watkins

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