Iverson was also the camp’s most notorious name. His part in a now-infamous brawl inside a Hampton, Virginia, bowling alley on Valentine’s Day night 1993 threw his legal issues into a tizzy that summer.
Iverson’s hometown was divided down the middle in a case that had obvious racial undertones. Only Iverson, Michael Simmons, Melvin Stephens, Jr. and Samuel Wynn–all Black–were charged with any wrongdoing in the bowling alley mob fight that allegedly began after Iverson stepped to Steve Forrest, four years Allen’s senior and white, after he reportedly provoked Iverson. According to Iverson, once Forrest used the words “nigger” and “little boy” in an already tense situation, all hell broke loose.
Fists were thrown, chairs were, too. Whites fought Blacks, bystanders allegedly hid in the pins, people were hurt. By the end of it all, Allen Ezail Iverson stood as the melee’s poster child. “It’s definitely racial,” he said to Sports Illustrated’s Ned Zeman in October of the same year.
But Nike was so intent on not only having the country’s biggest prep star at their camp, but also making a good impression for possible future endeavors, that the company rolled out the red carpet for Iverson in a sense. They famously footed Allen’s traveling expenses, allowing him to fly back and forth between Indiana and Virginia for his trial that kicked off earlier the same month–a trial which many believed at the time would not end in any serious life- or career-altering consequences.
“It’s serious and nobody’s downplaying it,” Bob Gibbons, the camp’s selection-committee chairman, said at the time. “But we investigated it thoroughly before bringing him in. He may not be back, but we have reason to believe the charges will be dropped.”
Between splitting time as both a modern day symbol for civil rights and high-profile goon in his small Tidewater town in Virginia, the unflattering opinions about Iverson the player carried all the way to Indiana. Not that it mattered much to Nike, as Gibbons’ above comments indicate.
But, again, this is where the aforementioned chip on Chuck’s shoulder would begin to mirror that of mountains. Not all vibes surrounding Iverson were of the flattering variety.
Then-sophomore Ronnie Fields went on record to blast Iverson’s selfish style of play, saying, “Since he’s a point guard, I thought he’d at least try to look for his teammates. When we finally get the ball, we’ve got to force up shots.”
Fields’ coach, Willie Nelson, agreed. “Everybody in here has been watching him,” Nelson said. “They’re saying, `Why doesn’t he distribute the ball more?’ After a while, his teammates just stand around.”
Everyone had an opinion on Allen Iverson. Fellow campers, coaches, civil rights activists, bigots. Everybody.