One of my biggest fears involving Allen Iverson is that he morphs into my generation’s Pete Maravich. A guy who changed the culture of basketball, never won a championship, but was one of the more unique talents and personalities the game ever witnessed and whose demons haunted him until the very end of his life.
I read an article on Allen Iverson that f*cked up my day. If you’re a Bubba Chuck fan, you shouldn’t read it, but it’s almost as if you have to. Life after basketball, as we all know, hasn’t been exactly cordial to A.I. Yet, the stories Kent Babb reveals make it harder and harder to realize one of the first athletes whose career I saw from start to finish flame in such a public and poetic fashion – in particular the 2009 vacation and divorce court stories. All the criticisms against Chuck, I get it. And I’m not here to say any of them are particularly off base. The same vulnerabilities which made him such a near-invincible and polarizing figure on the court are the same demons that appear to be breaking him down one day at a time away from the hardwood.
I hope one day Allen will allow people into his life who genuinely want to help him. I hope he realizes those pipe dreams of once again being a NBA star have long since been washed away. I hope he becomes more involved in his kids’ lives (if he really is how the article painted). I pray he can make it to June 2030 when Reebok is supposedly forking over $30M in a deferred trust deal. Shit, I just hope Allen Iverson makes it June 2030.
Ironically, it’s now been 10 years since Allen Iverson’s last important playoff run. In a series entitled #PlayoffMemories you’ll come to understand, the first to fall under the microscope is The Answer’s most underrated playoff moment. The seven-game thriller vs. Vince Carter and the Raptors deserves mention. Game 1 vs. the Lakers in the 2001 Finals, however, earned its spot atop his career playoff highlights because of the magnitude of the stage – Shaq, Kobe, Phil and company were 12-0 in the playoffs coming into the game, dropping 48 on the road and, of course, the step over Tyronn Lue. It was Iverson’s Summer Jam moment, in a sense.
Still, it’s his 55 points in Game 1 of the opening round against the New Orleans Hornets (who were in the East that year) that’ll always fail to be mentioned in those “you had to see it live” nights. Going an extremely efficient 21-32 from the field – which wasn’t always the case with A.I. – Chuck played 47 minutes finishing with 55 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. Watching the game with my homies from high school, we all went apeshit. We knew the Sixers game was last for a reason, and Chuck did everything but disappoint. In fact, the game was so intoxicating, check the quotes from those who witnessed up close and in person.
“That was his best ever, by far.” – Larry Brown, Sixers Head Coach
“The only player I’ve ever seen play like that was Michael Jordan.” – Derrick Coleman
“It’s right up there with Mike’s 63.” – Paul Silas, Hornets Head Coach
“It was the single-best performance I’ve ever been a part of.” – Keith Van Horn
And, of course, Iverson himself.
“When I’m out there on the basketball court in front of 20,000 people, and I’m making shots and they’re into it and jumping up and cheering, that’s what I get the goose bumps from. Because I know when these people leave this arena, that might be something they’ll cherish for the rest of their life.”
What Allen does with the rest of his life is up to him. F*ck me, he has a lot to change and make right within himself and the people closest to him. I’m just a young kid from Virginia who grew up idolizing him for all the chinks in his armor those who never understood his role in society heaved towards him. Maybe he becomes one of those guys who hits rock bottom only to use it as a success story, similar to Mike Tyson and his Undisputed tour. Then again, perhaps he doesn’t and my biggest fears become realities.
Nothing can take away the memories on the basketball court, though, like Game 1 of the 2003 Eastern Conference First Round. You know what the crazy thing about that game is? It happened 10 years ago today.