His career had political implications from the start. While still in high school, he was imprisoned because of a brawl at a bowling alley. When the smoke cleared, he was the only participant to get jail time. The prosecutor used an old statute that had been designed to combat lynchings to railroad him. Virginia’s first black governor stepped in and pardoned him. And then, he became an All American at Georgetown. At a young age, Allen Iverson learned to be mistrustful of authority.
Controversy followed him into the professional ranks. Lurid tales of domestic discord, financial irresponsibility and a disdain for “practice” were plentiful. His friends were an issue, his shorts were too long, his hair was thuggish. But somehow, along the way, he became an 11 time All Star, a Rookie Of The Year, an MVP, a 4 time scoring champion and the central figure in the last run that the 76ers made for a world championship.
Between the lines, he was a thing of beauty; a jittery blur who was streaky from the outside and explosive around the rim. He is one of a handful of players to have scored 60 points in an NBA game. He broke the will and the ankles of opponents.
He was authentically and unforgivably black. He inspired the dreams of children and represented the streets. I tried to never miss one of his games.
We met several times. The last time I saw him play live, I was given two court side seats at the Garden for a preseason game by the late Steven Greenberg. Iverson was giving my Beloved Knicks the business and someone from behind me yelled, “Iverson, you suck!”
His reply, “What game you looking at?”
Yesterday, he officially retired and there will be those who will be unappreciative of the sure fire first ballot Hall Of Famer’s contribution. But I will look back and remember when the kid from Virginia Beach strode on to the national stage and shook up the sporting world, and I will remember that he electrified buildings all over the country and in his prime, each and every time he touched the court, it was an event. Bubba Chuck could play. So long. Thanks for the memories.