Train Wreck or Misguided: Will the Real Allen Iverson Please Stand Up

If you could bottle and sell dysfunction, Allen Iverson would be a billionaire many times over.

Whether you know him as A.I., “the franchise player” or even “that idiot that forced the NBA to crack down on their dress code policy,” Allen Iverson has been one of the most influential and toxic public figures of the last 25 years. Whether he’s buying a new chain to sport or providing inspiration for the next aspiring athlete to ditch the fundamentals and chuck ill-advised jumpshots, Allen Iverson has been a part of many of our lives for some time now. And it’s time we began looking back, at “the franchise player.”

If you could bottle and sell dysfunction, Allen Iverson would be a billionaire many times over. From a failed marriage to multiple arrests to numerous character hits, Allen Iverson seems destined to live life as if self destruction were his mantra.

Yet despite this often outlandish behaviour, to say his profesional basketball resume and influence on the sport is impressive might be an understatement. His crowning jewel is, of course, what many refer to still as the crossover seen around the world with Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997 during a game between Iverson’s Philadelphia 76’ers and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

But whether he’s on the court or off the court, one thing seems clear: Allen Iverson generates a lot of interest.

Allen Iverson was drafted in 1996 as the Number 1 overall draft pick by the then-cellar dweller Philadelphia 76’ers and was dubbed “the future of the sport.” They didn’t exactly “take off” quickly as they had hoped (the losing continued), but once Larry Brown was installed as head coach in 1997, Iverson was moved to Shooting Guard from his natural Point Guard position, and shifted his “Bubba Chuck” persona of ball hogging to new heights.

In the course of his early career, he took his team to the NBA Finals (a loss against the Los Angeles Lakers), was selected to numerous All-Star appearances and All-NBA team nods. There was also his later runs with the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies, which both ended abruptly when Iverson refused to take any role that was deemed less than the offensive focal point, despite having been in declining skillset while playing for the Denver Nuggets.

He is largely credited with bringing the Hip-Hop culture to the NBA, a style so much associated with the game today it’s weird to think about the NBA before Iverson. Iverson had cornrows. He had tattoos all over his body. He got off the bus and walked around in “gangster” clothes. He was friends with rappers. For better or worse, Iverson changed the whole cultural significance of the NBA. You can pretty much credit him for David Stern’s dress code.

But those accolades and related stuff are for sports outlets like Yahoo Sports to write about.

Given his unreliability and complete selfishness over team unification, many franchises were very skeptical about signing him, and rightly so. His inability to control his inflated ego was reaching epic proportions and hindering his ability to be taken seriously as a team player.

Sadly, before we got a chance to see if they still had any magic left, Iverson proved to be a side-show off the court. Outlandish spending, recluse attitude, alcohol and gambling issues, silly pride, and failure to develop a ‘post-basketball plan’ has all but robbed the former NBA Most Valuable Player of what could have been a promising career away from the court.

For a guy who had been given chance after chance, Allen Iverson was finding a way to make a fool out of his friends and the same business that helped him make millions at every turn. But to no one’s surprise really, things played out as they had many times before.

I don’t know Iverson, so I don’t know what runs through his head, but I’m sure he’s a very complex guy. How can a guy be so erratic in his personal life but so celebrated by internet smarks in his professional life?

Going back to the story though, there is a man who’s been accused of wrongdoings in regards to his parenting, financial spending habits, and filed lein’s that will not be addressed for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, while many did find this attempt at post-sports life to be in terrible taste, the matter in which he chose to make his voice heard was not well received by all, and he would be foolish to even justify any of it.

Iverson’s heart may have been in the right place all of these years, but his insides were filled with liquid foolishness, which drew negative attention to him at a time when perhaps it should have been focused more on the duty of providing spiritual or friendly consultation towards re-building a normal life.

Just as some mild success had seemed to find him again for playing in Turkey, Allen Iverson was released from his contract in 2011, thus deciding to ‘take his ball and go home’ and has become a side show since then.

Will we ever see him play anywhere again? My guess is, hell no.

Iverson has lived at a frantic pace. He’s likely ingested more alcohol in his lifetime than the NFL groupies at NYC nightlife spot Greenhouse during the NFL football season over the past five seasons.

That’s a lot of alcohol.

Someone might need to tap this guy on the shoulder and start a support group.