Superstars come and go in the NBA. For many of these athletes, their achievements within the confines of the 94 x 50 dimensions of the NBA hardwood define their career – and often, their lives. Very few of these superstars transcend the sport, and enter into pop culture history. Allen Iverson is one of those players.
Iverson was the All-Star player made good from the wrong side of the tracks, but as he ascended to the top of the NBA, his unwillingness to conform became a trademark that ultimately led to his fall from grace.
During his hey-day Iverson was one of the sport’s biggest names, one of it’s highest earners, and a polarizing figure to many of the established middle-aged, white journalists who didn’t understand the ‘hip-hop culture’ that Iverson ushered into the league – a culture which eventually permeated throughout the NBA and became a staple from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.
In his new book, author Kent Babb from the Washington Post, peels back the curtain on cultural icon Iverson, and provides a sobering look at how one of the biggest names in the sport fell from his perch so quickly.
Iverson took advantage of the perks and preferential treatment that any athlete in his position was given, from coaches, to front-office members enabling Iverson to live a life seemingly free of accountability of all the bad choices he made.
Babb delves into many of those: bad practice and workout traits – Iverson never bothered to work out as a pro and sometimes ate four hot dogs in a row before taking the court; neglecting his family and his wife, Tawanna, on many occasions – even as she stuck by him amidst many legal battles; his nightly extravagances partying with his crew at strip clubs and heavy alcohol consumption that continued well after his career ended, and the NBA money had dried up.
From an excerpt of the book that appeared in the Daily News:
“By 2011, NBA teams were no longer calling Iverson with contract offers, forcing him to wait for an annual $800,000 payment from Reebok, part of his lifetime contract with the shoe manufacturer. But not long after the payment hit each year, it was gone, in part because Tawanna needed to pay bills on their homes, including a $4.5 million gated estate in northwest Atlanta that Iverson had spared no expense in customizing. Among the features of the house were nearly ten thousand square feet, a sprawling bar and a gourmet kitchen, and rain gutters made from pure copper.
“Now, with creditors calling, his wife threatening divorce, and Iverson’s representatives repeatedly striking out on a new NBA contract, the walls were closing in.
One of the more startling claims by the author is that Iverson may have been inebriated during his now-famous ‘practice’ rant in 2002.
“Some were entertained, and others watched the train wreck unfold, knowing from experience that Iverson was drunk,” Babb writes.
Babb spent two years researching and interviewing 100 people close to Iverson for the book, and that is evident throughout. There’s unique insight into the man behind the icon via interviews with some of the people closest to A.I. over the years, including Larry Brown, Pat Croce, Aaron Mckie and Que Gaskins. One voice missing, however – and it is acknowledged by the author – is Iverson’s. It would have been good to get Iverson’s version of events, but unfortunately we don’t – through no fault of the author’s, though.
Despite that, the book is an in-depth look at Iverson the player, the icon and the family man that provides more new information than the Showtime documentary film ‘Iverson’ which aired recently. Babb effortlessly ebbs and flows between critical junctures in Iverson’s life and the present day easily, giving the reader a sense of just how far the former Sixer has fallen.
Die-hard Iverson fans may find some stories troubling, but all in all, it appears to be as uncompromising a look into Iverson’s world as we have seen since the NBA spotlight stopped shining bright on him.