Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 at 1:15 pm  |  108 responses

Like It’s My Last

Part One: “Doesn’t Anybody Like Allen Iverson?”

Maybe you’re tired of reading Allen Iverson’s name, I don’t know. He signed to play in Turkey last week (not the first four-time scoring champ to head overseas, just so you know), and the consensus was that it’s a sad way for him to exit the game–and our conscience. In reality, it’s a backlash that has been brewing for some time. Backlash and Allen Iverson, hand in hand since 1993. As his career was winding down, I was constantly hit by the thought of how history would remember Iverson. I was curious as to how he was marketed, how he’d been written about, about how great he really was as a player, and what type of guy he was. Last May, I decided to at least try to find out. Unlike perhaps some who’d written about him, I wanted to try to understand. I spoke with people from Newport News, Georgetown, Reebok, Philly, you know, people who actually knew him. What Iverson evokes in those close to him is the loyalty that he was famous for; the amount of people who returned my emails, who readily agreed to talk, who defended him as a man like family and as a player like a teammate—they provided the Answer. This is part one of two.

by Todd Spehr

“Allen was one of the great marketers of the game to young people because of the counterculture personality that he had.”
Harvey Araton, NBA writer for the New York Times

Que Gaskins vividly remembers the moment he fell in love. He was the business unit manager of basketball for Reebok in 1994, a slowly growing division of the shoe company that was, like all others, fighting for a piece of whatever Nike didn’t have. Gaskins was watching Georgetown’s freshman, Allen Iverson, on television, this navy blur on his screen taking and holding his attention. Then it happened. Gaskins was, like all future Iverson devotees, seduced by a move of quickness and uncommon athleticism: Iverson evading a defender at midcourt before accelerating to the paint, taking off to dunk, the sight of this player of ordinary height doing extraordinary things appealed to Gaskins. “Woah,” he thought. “I have to find a way in on this.”

Gaskins, intrigued, started networking, making calls, speaking to those he knew first at Georgetown and then to newly acquainted people in Virginia. The feedback was consistent: Freak of nature on the court, and off it, someone who was very personable, very funny, real, and likeable. There was appeal—both a genuine appeal and a unique demographic appeal—that sold Gaskins on Iverson. There was Iverson’s play, a potent mix of dare and desperation, an unbridled nature; no one was ever ridiculed for playing too hard, Gaskins figured. There was also that realness to his personality, the uncompromising attitude, the aura Iverson permeated that could potentially allow him to be influential in a different way. His background and experiences were consistent with things that were being articulated in a rapidly growing genre known as hip hop, a type of music that enjoyed growth in the 80s and broke into the mainstream in the 90s, coinciding with its followers’ entrance into adulthood.

Iverson represented the evolution of hip hop as much as the culture itself. Like an increasing number of professional athletes, there were inconsistent living conditions as a youth, the frequent presence of drugs and death, but unlike most athletes, there was a famous stint in jail, a lasting brush with the so-called system. There was no family member of noted achievement, no suburban upbringing or private school education, no real reason to think he’d be any different to other talented athletes gone wayward. Yet despite those plights, Iverson had somehow risen and achieved a small measure of (and was destined for more) greatness, and thus symbolized the capabilities of outlasting and perseverance. He was, above all else, to be admired, not for what he wasn’t but for what he was; things were achieved that, taken to logical conclusions, carried value greater than championship rings or dollar signs.

To Reebok, Iverson was this contrasting figure. He was a player with the ability and credibility to represent a culture in a relevant manner, who openly loved who he was and what he was about. And yet because Iverson was never one for narcissistic introspection he was therefore unaware of this ability to be a torchbearer, disinterested in projecting what other athletes projected and holding no regard for the opinions others held of him. The latter, some felt, the epitome of the hip hop in Iverson.

Reebok loved Iverson, even had a shoe design readymade for him during his sophomore year in college with his future still undecided. Ironically, Reebok felt that if anyone was destined for Nike, it was Iverson: He wore Nike’s growing up, John Thompson, his college coach, at one time was on Nike’s board of directors and always had his team outfitted by the brand, his agent David Falk had obvious ties, and, perhaps most importantly, it was thought Nike could best capture Iverson’s unique essence—his background, his story—in the form of advertising. Reebok approached Iverson with three basic questions: Who are you? What do you represent? What do you want to be about? Reebok soon found out. “It was family, loyalty, honor, about being a man’s man,” said Gaskins. “Not someone who was soft, scared, or easily intimidated. He was confident, he believed in his abilities over everyone else’s. And we loved that.” Iverson signed with Reebok—there would be freedom, a spotlight, and a signature shoe ready for opening night.Allen Iverson Michael Jordan

The early advertising was grassroots, filmed in Philadelphia’s streets and playgrounds like semi-documentaries. What’s more real than a documentary? It was, felt some Reebok employees, the best advertising the company had done in quite some time. There was a feeling of arrival attached to Iverson’s signature, a chance for new opportunities, a fresh start for a brand that had prior success in female fitness but little else. The company introduced Iverson by mixing his performance-based elements—his speed, his creativity, his innovation—with a personal, real touch. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was effective. Clearly, Reebok didn’t only embrace the best of Iverson, but the core of Iverson. That, in itself, was a mixed bag. He was not only a talented and good looking young man, but one unchanged by fame or fortune, who exhibited a youthful defiance, and who had, as noted by longtime observer Dr. Todd Boyd, a cultivated indifference to the opinions of society. This wasn’t a man chasing endorsements or commercials, but one who was satisfied providing for family and immersing himself with a familiar circle of friends.

The culture of the game was slowly altering: Music was blared in arenas, rappers were referencing players in their songs, players were dressing like rappers, and writers were referencing rap lyrics in their work. Iverson wasn’t just a basketball player—he was the central figure of a larger community, an athlete who looked like a rapper yet who wasn’t a rapper. His rise to prominence as a marketing tool, not without its challenges (mostly from an older audience) had opened doors; brands were suddenly leveraged within the company, mixing entertainers and musicians with clothing and shoe lines, fusing together the desires of the young male—sports, music, technology, entertainment. Something was discovered.

And so on a November morning in 2001, with Michael Jordan, himself the gold standard for marketing, in town to play his Sixers, Iverson was offered something by Reebok that they’d never offered another athlete of theirs: A lifetime contract. Reebok, Gaskins thought, was saying three things to Iverson: He made the right decision [choosing Reebok], they made the right decision, and with loyalty being at the core of Iverson’s values, this gesture showed that they were shaped in some way in his image.

Iverson signed.

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  • hoodsnake

    I didn’t even read part 2. I know I’m gonna catch a lot of flak from his 17 fans but he brought this on himself. But don’t worry he will be Stateside in a couple of months citing another ‘family emergency’ which will probably have him seen in some strip club. Let’s just hope he invested well with his money

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    Allen, you’re missed and your legacy is still fresh in alot of our minds. Signed, one of your “17 fans”.

  • Papou

    Love u too Allen! (2 of 17)

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Great stuff, Todd. So thorough. Many thanks.

  • http://www.oprah.com Doyouwantmore

    Co-sign hoodsnake. People have been defending Allen Iverson’s childishness by calling it other things for years and this year ain’t no different.

  • Blackphantom

    I am #3 of those 17 fans

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nima Zarrabi

    Great read, Todd. Looking forward to Part II.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I’m with hoodsnake and Doyouwantmore. Sorry.

  • http://bulls.com airs

    #4 present.

  • Motown1

    This was o.k.

  • J

    Allen Iverson is a future Hall Of Famer who gave the NBA years of very exciting games, drew attention of fans who had no interest in Basketball and whose legendary #3 jerseys were seen everywhere.
    AI is still much more talented than many players in the league today.
    He gives his all in a game, he’s fearless, energetic and always hungry. Not once did you ever see AI lazily walking up the court like some NBA players.
    It’s very sad that the NBA did not step in and keep him from being acquired by another country, as if he would not have been a great asset to any team this season.
    Iverson was still receiving thousands of votes for the All Star game, still had so many fans who enjoy watching him play.
    He was the reason my family subscribed to League Pass every year, he was always so entertaining to watch.
    What was the NBA thinking giving one of our most amazing players to Turkey?

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    People like who they like.
    Iverson has been immature.
    So was Tupac.
    I still was a fan of both of them.
    Would I raise my children to emulate their every action? Nah.
    But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things in their characters and performances worth cherishing. I feel sorry for people who can’t or won’t see that reality.
    I still remember watching dude in college and being amazed at what he was doing, and then following him throughout the NBA. The last player I was ever a true “fan” of.

  • Airnest


  • http://slamonline.com rudy

    i was so in love with iverson as a child that i tried to get cornrows. That didn’t exactly work out, so i just bought his shoes and jersey.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Iverson was great, but he dogged it, particularly on defense. Like I said, he is my last “favorite” player, but I’m not going to sell the myth that he always played hard. He didn’t, at least not on both ends. But, he cared deeply about winning and losing when he was on the floor. Unfortunately, you have to care about it in the weight room and off-the-court as well, and sometimes he didn’t show that discipline.
    As for his gambling and drinking problems, those are way too common in all of society.

  • http://www.kylestack.com Kyle Stack

    Man, this is such a good story. One of the best — sports or otherwise — I’ve read in awhile.

  • Sizzle

    I don’t think it is necessarily fair for him to be called “childish.” While he has had a ton of questionable behavior, look where he came from. The man took himself from literally the bottom (prison sentence) to nearly the top of the game (at least from a popularity perspective). The thing I always admired and will admire is that he always stuck to his guns and didn’t back down. Even to this day (his refusal to come off the bench/conform to another role) he is still doing what he BELIEVES in. I have nothing but respect for the man on the basketball court. The man is what he is.

  • http://coupdela.com WeCoupDeLa


  • Martey

    People who think Allen Iverson would still KILL it in the league are the same that think Mike Tyson could still knock anybody out. When someone really makes an impact on popular culture, that memory of them at their peak remains engrained in our mind and we refuse to see them for what they are today, which is hurtful to them. Word to Gary Coleman. Its not 2001, its 2010. Allen Iverson is 35 years old. Trust me I’m one of the 17 fans going back to him throwing alley oops to Boubacar AW. For someone to say that AI is still hungry, really hasn’t been following the ongoing drama. Maybe the other players need the leader/best player to show up at practice a la Kobe or Ray Allen 3 hours earlier to set the tone discipline wise and not demand the ball to chuck up 30 shots when they finally arrive. Raw talent can get you on the court but so many other intangibles keep you there. If you didn’t know the game was about politics, look up Craig Hodges or Mahmoud Abdul Rauf. Sad to see it go that way but he’s not the first and definitely not the last.


    *ESPN 30 for 30 piano playing* What if I told you Allen Iverson found a love for practice in Turkey.

  • Martey

    @ Sizzle, that look where he came from talk is played out homie. You can kick that look where you come from mess all day but at some point you’re closer to where youre going then where you came from (meaning you grow old). DO you want more said it best. people have been cosigning and yes-manning him to death for years. At the end of the day its a team sport and your refusal to compromise will make you look more foolish as your skills deteriorate, which happen with age. Hopefully he stil makes the hall of fame.

  • http://www.edthesportsfan.com Ed The Sports Fan

    Todd, you did great work with this one brother. Looking forward to part 2.

  • http://Mrjones21901@aol.com Run’n'Gun219

    Great write up. Iverson embodied everthing about my generation. Im a 27 year old male. and he was the everyday person growing up in the 90′s. i say only jordan has had a bigger influence on kids or even people who playin the nba. If you look at this generation i see all of them doing the things iverson opened the door for. Tatoo’s(if u are a hooper you are guarenteed to be tatted up, crossing over from the nba to rap and and emboding a whole culture. being there self and not changing for anybody . so i guess in 5 out of the 17

  • joaquinthedream

    haters never gonna get lost. lets all appreciate what he’s done for the L, man.


  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    The official count right now is 10 of 17.

  • http://www.lacuevacrosscountry.com Slick Nick Da Ruler

    Beautiful. Thank you Allen. Great work Todd.

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    Great article. And a big cosign on Allenp’s thoughts at 2:02, per usual.
    I will always be a fan.
    Looking forward to part deux.

  • Hussman25

    All me to the 17… #11 present. Great write-up! I WOULD LOVE TO SEE ya’ll to do another peace on AI. One letting him tell his story over the last few years; instead of hearing from Gary Moore…

  • JTaylor21

    Count me in E, I’m 11, 12, and 13.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    Looks like 15 now.

  • chazz michael michaels


  • http://www.twitter.com/clearheatvision Raj

    #14 here.

    @Hussman25….would be great to hear Allen and not Gary Moore as his voice box. Has anyone thought about the reality that despite Allen iverson saved a “growing” basketball shoe division at Reebok and made them successful compared to Nike, that even they turned their back on him this offseason. They cancelled the Answer shoe line, even though he has a lifetime contract. Some loyalty if you ask me.

  • http://www.twitter.com/clearheatvision Raj

    oops I guess I am #18 then. Guess your head can explode now @hoodsnake.

  • http://slamonline.com jsbauman

    Can’t wait for part II. Excellent write-up and makes me even more proud to write for this magazine

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Can I count as -1 fan?

  • Darius

    I count for #16-60. Slam once again, great work

  • Aaron

    Great story, but -1 regardless.

  • karma

    SLAM needs to stop acting as if Iverson is some sort of martyr for a just cause. It’s 2010…this dude should have accepted his role when he started declining (which he did), but he refused to do so. Stop making it seem to dramatic cause he was part of the “hiphop” culture and what not…basketball talks louder than outside interests, just ask guys like Shaq and Rodman.

    Iverson was a great player, but he was NOT a martyr and he was outcasted for right and just reasons. It’s not a conspiracy, and you’re only defending him cause he supported SLAM and you guys thought he was “keepin it real”, which ultimately leads to nothing. F**k hiphop culture’s manifestations in basketball, it doesn’t belong and it doesn’t contribute anything to the game. What did keeping it real do for Iverson? Nothing, except make him an outcast. You can’t be “real” when you’re working for a corporate entity. It’s not going to work and SLAM needs to recognize that and point it out, rather than encourage it by trying to seem “cool”.

  • http://nicekicks.com Meloman2.0

    dont know what number its at now.. 17 i guess? yep that would be me

  • JTaylor21

    @Karma, AI kept it “REAL” by playing the game with 110% effort, carrying a sorry a** team for too long and for doing it his own way regardless of what people and the media thought of him. AI is a legend and it’s a shame that guys like Darko are still in this league while AI is in freaking Turrrrkey, DAMN what a shame. ALso Slam loves AI becuase he was the one that sold the most mags after their first LOVE MJ retired.

  • karma

    Darko was never a superstar, never pretended to be one. Iverson thought (similar to Mcgrady) that he was bigger than he is.

    For all people say about guys like Kobe, MJ, D-Wade, within it all, they are still humble in that they know their limitations and when they need to adapt to a changing environment (MJ post ’90, Kobe from 00-02, and after the Gasol trade). Guys like T-Mac and Iverson never figured that out, and likely never will at this point.

  • karma

    I loved watching Iverson when I was younger. But attitude carries a lot of weight in professional settings, no matter how “real” you are. Grown men wearing baggy shorts, sideways hats, and earrings at 35 should not still be talking about maturity.



  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Karma said F**k hiphop culture’s manifestations in basketball, it doesn’t belong and it doesn’t contribute anything to the game.
    If you really believe that, then I feel sorry for you. Hip hop is a huge part of African American culture and has been since its inception. Just To say the music, the aesthetic and the ethos do not belong in basketball and did not contribute anything useful to the game is not only asinine, but an interesting statement when you consider who dominates the game today. I’m not a fan of many things glorified in hip hop, but I don’t think it’s totally evil either, nor do I think it should have never been introduced to the game.

  • karma

    I meant in the context of the “keepin it real” aspect. I remember people hated on guys like Kobe cause he was “fake” and “didn’t keep it real”, while guys like Iverson had “street cred” and “kept it real”.

    What did it amount to in the end? A trip to Turkey? You’re a f*king millionaire working for a billion dollar industry; you live in a mansion; why does acting hard and “keeping it real” that important?

    I know this whole debate isn’t an issue nowadays, as it was in the early 00s, but it still irks me. I get the influence of hip hop on the game, but I don’t think it contributes anything to it other than making black athletes look like they fit into organized stereotypes.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    And JOrdan never adopted to his environment. On every team he played on he was the top dog, even as a 40-year old jump shooter with a player who just scored 29.5 points per game as his running mate.
    Kobe hasn’t changed either.
    Kobe just won games, while Mike was just Mike. In both cases they were protected from facing the full impact of their choices.
    Iverson earned his problems, but I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that many, many people in the League were hoping, wishing and praying that he would suffer the fate he has brought upon himself. They hated his rise to prominence and wanted to see him fall. He obliged them through a series of horrible choices, but the choices aren’t what changed their minds. They already believed what they believed based on how they see the world, and how they believe certain people should behave in the world.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I think that’s because you’ve embraced the mainstream view of “hip-hop”. I am by no means a hip hop scholar or even a terribly informed fan, but even I recognize that it’s a layered and complicated movement with many different moving parts, but only a small fraction of that movement is represented.
    I also recognize that hip hop is no more damaging or horrible than the blues movement, the ragtime movement, the jazz movement or the rock and roll movement, despite what the mainstream media may like to say today.
    Moreover, I understand that for many people, including myself, Iverson was real. He acted, talked and dressed like many of the people we saw on the street, in high school and in college. What the media defined as “thug” wear, was the standard issue uniform for almost every male college student at Howard University. We were emulating thugs the same way dressing like James Dean and the Fonz was emulating “thugs.”
    I do not deny or dispute that Iverson made a plethora of mistakes and bad decisions and I am on record as lamenting his squandered potential. Yet, I still can’t deny that dude was a force of nature who had some qualities that I still admire. I would suggest you read David Halberstam’s piece from 2001 on Iverson and the media that defined him. You can’t get less hip hop than David Halberstam.

  • karma

    WHO wanted to see him fail???

    He won the MVP award in 2001 despite guys like Kobe/Shaq both averaging 28 ppg (check the numbers, for those who think Kobe just piggy backed off the Big Fella) with identical win/losses as the Sixers, and TD leading the Spurs to the best record (with ridiculous numbers).

    You’re telling me the media wanted to see him fail by giving him an MVP award that could have been given to Shaq, Kobe, or TD, all “good” guys (in comparison to AI at this time)?

    AI had PLENTY of chances. He screwed himself over with his actions post-Denver.

  • Sizzle

    @ Martey, some people will never change for the good or the bad. AI does not strike me as the type to all a sudden be a company yes man (like Donovan McNabb) and say all the right things. That is what makes him who he is. It may make him seem foolish to us, but those that know him best know that is deep down who he really is. As for some of the others, he will never show up 3 hours before the game and stay late after practice but I’m sure if you asked other players (When he was in his prime) More than half would go to war with him. The media is always trying to turn negatives on people being who they want to be and not what the media wants them to be (see LBJ move to Miami, Randy Moss refusing to conduct interviews, AI refusing to be a bench/role player). They love Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dwight Howard because they are “media darlings” and will cater to whomever. Once the media is against you, they project their views on you, and soon you turn on the player. It’s a joke….

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    How would were you in 2001? I would suggest again that you read Halberstam’s article which discusses the prevailing media opinion of Iverson and how it shifted due to the amazing performance he put on with a team that was nowhere near as talented as those fielded by Kobe or Timmy.
    Since I started following dude in ’94, I’ve read many of the stories, argued about him on countless comment sections and defended him to too many folks.
    There is no doubt that he brought his current state on himself. There can also be no doubt that his ending pleases many people. If you don’t see it, you don’t see it. We just agree to disagree.


    Fan number 17. I really miss Iverson. Man the old Phily, with iverson, Snow and all timer Mutombo. im hoping he does really well the 1st and comes back to the NBA.

  • karma

    Allen, I was 14, but I was an avid follower of the league (and have been since I was 8). I read a lot of SLAM, SI, etc, and watched a little too much NBA Action and Inside Stuff. Point is, I think in terms of controversial figures in the NBA, winning cures all. The media will take your side if you start winning (see: Artest, Ron, or Bryant, Kobe). I really think the backlash against AI wouldn’t have been that bad had he embraced his decline. I will check out the article you reccomended…good debate though brother.

  • http://google c_cantrell

    not really sure what fan number i am but i am a huge a.i. fan n im pretty sure we got more than 17 a.i. fans here so i will personally tell you (on behalf of all a.i. fans on here and SLAM) to get the f*ck outta here n shut the f*ck up

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ c_cantrell – Why the hate on people who don’t like AI…we’re just “being real”…isn’t that the most admiral quality you all see in the man you worship? What I don’t understand is haw everyone admires and love a guy like AI because he is “real” (should read stubborn) yet guys like David Robinson and Grant Hill aren’t “real” because they didn’t cause controversy. I thought being real is just standing for what you believe in even if it’s not necesarily controversial. Additionally, to me there is a fine line between being “real” and just being set in your ways…a mid to late 30′s basketball player who can’t get over his prima dona attitude falls into the latter category for me…

  • Martey

    Sizzle, you make a good point, but let’s take the media out of this for a minute. I consider myself old enough that the media can’t influence me and I found myself several times just watchin the game on mute and playing music in the background. One thing you mentionned is that most players would go to war with him WHEN HE WAS IN HIS PRIME. What role player will not go to war with an MVP in his prime? the point is that he is no longer in his prime and many fans are delusional about his pros and his cons. Many act like the media vilified him but how many companies made millions off his image. Glamorized this very image that we now say he is blackballed for. The common denominator is that this is a business. They will benefit and profit from you an asset until you become a liability. Remember the commercial with Jadakiss? People were fawning over Iverson. The answer shoes, multi million dollar campaigns. Im not asking him to be the vaseline on the teeth, yukedy yuk athlete. His personality is what it is and we’ve seen it with Kareem, Patrick Ewing, etc… But to say he wasn’t a prima donna is to not have watched him. Imagine the whole team is practicing and he is not. What does that do for team chemistry over time when it’s game time and he asks for the ball not caring what drill you practiced hours earlier. How many times did a coach have to call John Thompson to come and talk some sense into him. Joaquin can say that haters are never gonna get lost, but fanboys aside, most people know he’s at the very least a difficult player to deal with off the court regardless of talent. If you work in an office and you’re the best producer but a selfish co-worker, the spreadsheet about your stats and what your coworkers say may differ. He’s one of my faves ever but Im at least able to see why he would not be tolerated when his skills diminished. Let’s see how long Turkey lasts

  • karma

    Guys like c_cantrell is why I hate SLAM message boards. If you can’t debate intelligently without swearing and typing like a 12 year old, don’t even try.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Alot of people may find it hard to believe that I really do respect AI’s talent and what he did for the game. He was ungaurdable and absolutely dominant. I just don’t understand people’s idolization of him based on the fact that he was somehow more “real” than so many others who stood for what they believed in a less pronounced and controversial manor.

  • karma

    **are why I hate

  • karma

    Wayno, he won’t understand. Dude probably wasn’t even alive when Grant Hill was leading the Pistons.

  • http://dsjfklf.com Jukai

    I would like this article way better if it didn’t continually tout Iverson as a ‘family man.’
    Yeah. I don’t think so.

  • http://google c_cantrell

    ^^karma & wayno..
    well im jus sayin im sick of all the un-needed hate on a.i. i mean yal know dude was one of the best and always will be.. yeah he screwed up late in his career but still a.i. is a player like we have never seen in this league before n mite not ever see again.. and as far as david robinson and grant hill go when the hell did i say they wasnt real?? hell when did i say that a.i. was real?? n im not idolizing no one but we gotta give respect where respect is due.. iverson has alot to with the freakin site and SLAM even existing n if u dont believe me ask the staff.. iverson defines SLAM to a certain extent so if yal are goin to talk sh*t then at least know what your talking bout

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Who doesn’t like Grant Hill and David Robinson?
    Was Pistol Pete more or less popular than Bob Petit?
    Real is what it is. David Robinson and Grant Hill were real to what they were and how they wanted to carry themselves as men. That’s admirable and I respect and honor Robinson for the work he’s done with schoolchildren in Texas.
    That said, Wayno you appear to be upset that Iverson has more fans than Grant Hill and David Robinson. First, Grant Hill, before the injuries, was more popular than Iverosn, more universally loved, and sold more products. Check the tape. David Robinson was also no stranger to fame. In addition, how can you be upset that folks criticize you for not liking Iverson, then turn around and criticize other people for not showing love to Robinson and Hill.
    You’re mad at them for doing the exact same thing you yourself are doing.
    And co-sign Jukai on the family man thing. Dude may love his kids, but repeat infidelity is sad.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @c_cantrell – I’m just saying that in general, “being real” is one of the most highly touted characteristics of AI when it really wasn’t something that was at all unique to him. AI fans are constantly drooling over the fact that he was so “real” blah blah blah…I just don’t buy that argument. As I previously mentioned, his skills are about the only thing I do respect about that man.

  • http://google c_cantrell

    ^Allenp i respect you for that bro

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I’m not at all mad about that Allen, I just don’t understand why that is such an admired quality about him when in fact it’s is hardly unique to him. I’m not mad at people who like him for that reason, there just seems to be a certain stigma with the term “being real” where people assume it goes hand in hand with controversy. I don’t undertand how people seem to apply it more to a controversial individual than they do to those who were “stand up guys” so to speak. No bitterness or anger intended, I’m just trying to get people to think about it a little.

  • http://google c_cantrell

    ok but nothing u said had to anything with me.. i agree with u on only admiring his skills and his game because honestly thats all i admire from the dude too.. yeah he was real to himself in his own way but i said nothing about that n from now keep your sh*t straight or jus dont post anything at all

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Being “real” in Iverson’s case is a special.
    Before he hit the League, there weren’t as many superstars who so brazenly embraced the mindset and values of many young black men in that age range. Iverosn talked like us, he dressed like us, and for many people, he thought like us. He wasn’t making PC statements, he wasn’t trying to appease the media. He was just saying what was on his mind, and not only did many fans agree with him, but they felt like his viewpoint wasn’t that common in the League.
    Now, you could argue that this was a fallacy, that Chris Webber, a member of the Fab Five, was just as “hip hop” or real as Iverson, and you would be right. But, Webber didn’t resonate with fans the way Iverson did given his awesome talent, signature move and style. Plus, he was a freaking midget.
    Sorry for the caps, but people need to recognize that embracing rebels is a time honored AMERICAN tradition, not something promoted solely by one group.
    Everybody does not and did not like or identify with Iverson, but millions of fans did. People like what they like.
    You know what, Todd’s piece makes me want to write something about Iverson too. It won’t be as detailed, but I hope it’s interesting.

  • markymark

    17 strong baby!

  • http://google c_cantrell

    write away bro

  • Hammer

    Wow. Gr8,gr8 article. Looking 4ward 2 pt.2. With all the excitement and hoopla surrounding this season,it’s easy 4 sum people 2 bash AI and move on. But it does feel weird that AI isn’t n the L. I know that he didn’t play d and was a prima donna 2 an extent. But,man, was he a sight 2 c on the court on the offensive end. Was a warrior n the sense that he would play thru countless injuries. People need 2 remember that when they start bashing or criticizing him. Don’t know what # were on @ the fan count,but I’m sure its past the 17 mark. Hahaha

  • http://dsjfklf.com Jukai

    Wayno: ‘Keeping it real’ means something a little different than ‘being true to yourself.’ It’s keeping an unpopular image because it’s who you are, even when it would be easier to change. Robinson and Hill were tailor made for white-bread America. Allen Iverson simply was not. That’s why it is so much easier to idolize him, he went against the grain not for the sake of doing it, but simply because that was who he was, and he didn’t feel the need to conform just to be more likable.
    That’s what people are talking about.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    hm…I still just don’t buy the whole AI being “real” as being more special than anyone else being “real”…I think people use that idea to get past the many character issues that a controverisal figure has or perhaps to justify in thier mind the character flaws that they might have in common.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ Jukai – I disagree Jukai. As I stated before, I really don’t think that it’d fair to automatically tie “keeping it real” to negative or unpopular images. Just because it’s easier for someone to believe what they believe or do what they do, doesn’t mean they’re being any less “real” than anyone else if that is what they truely believe.

  • http://dsjfklf.com Jukai

    Maybe you didn’t understand what I said. Saying Iverson “kept it real” isn’t an admission that Iverson is being more of himself than DRob/GHill were. Saying Iverson “kept it real” is an acknowledgment that Iverson did not change who he was when it was unpopular to be who he was.
    I admire David Robinson for his opinions and his work and his intelligence. I don’t admire him for keeping that serve-the-country love-your-neighbor attitude, because, quite frankly, it BENEFITED him.
    Don’t take the “real” talk so literally, it’s figurative.

  • mAMba

    Awww man Iverson and Carter were the main reason I really got into ball. Loved watching him play and wanted to be exactly like him on the court with the crossover and style.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Pardeep

    A.I. is one of the most misunderstood athletes ever…. he changed the game and his hop hop lifestyle may have pissed a lot of old folks off, especially media members that were of a different generation than his like it says in this article these people at the end may have won the battle though because they just bashed the hell outta A.I., Stern, the NBA execs and the media was the only team AI couldn’t beat himself, they just ran him out of the league. Sad to see him go out like this but dudes a bona fide first ballot hall of famer and he will be remembered.

  • tRay

    Loved AI and always will but it comes a time where you gotta stop making excuses and just change your lifestyle c’mon man

  • http://Www.slamonline.com B-more Mike

    Cosign Jukai. Couldn’t have been explained any clearer.

  • Jay

    I agree with Pardeep,

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign Juks.
    And whoever said that basketball and hip-hop don’t mix is ridiculous. Believe it or not, Shaq WAS decent on Fu-Schnickens- “What’s Up Doc.”
    On the real though, basketball’s theme music IS hip-hop. Prior to hip-hop, it was probably jazz. Well, at least to Kareem.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Iverson playing in Turkey…when “keeping it real” goes wrong…

  • Guam(Home Grown)

    Ai’s biggest fan in the Asia Pacific!

    Practice? That press conference he averaged 31.2ppg and the pres was asking about practice. He then replied “man, if im hurt, im hurt” and its funny how the media who want to bad mouth him show the practice rant, but cant let it play for about 10-15 seconds more so that the public can hear that line.

    but they don’t.
    he has missed some practices due to injury, but no one has questioned his absence from a game due to injury. Vince Carter missed games with a SPRAINED PINKY! Allen Iverson played with a FRACTURED THUMB AND MINI WRAPPED CAST IN 2004 V BOSTON. The shoulder contusion, knee contusion, sprained ankles! c’mon!

    and we want to question him about practice.
    but, when the game starts he’s there giving you 110% with or without injury.

  • Thegfunk

    Afterall, he is a human being.

  • Thegfunk

    I am 19 and I love hoops. But I find it funny myself that I do not feel an affinity to Jordan. Never really have. Is he not my era!? Yet I have iverson on my clothes, feet and walls like every other kid at the court. Is there something wrong with that?

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    @Thegfunk – Are you saying you came of age in the Michael Jordan era? You’re 19. He was drafted the year I was born, and I’m 26. You were -1 when he won his first championship. Seven when he won his last one. Yeah, I don’t think Jordan is your era.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/media/slam-tv/2010/08/video-michael-jordans-love-of-the-game/ notblack


  • Groves@UWA

    a lot of love… even more respect

  • doyouwantmore

    I think J said it best up top. “AI brought a lot interest from fans who aren’t into basketball…” Those are the fans that ruin it for those of us who actually care about the game.

  • Ugh

    So who was the first four time scoring champ to go to Europe?

  • The Philosopher

    Iverson is a clown.
    Great ball player, and what not, but an all time clown.
    There comes a point in one’s life when you just know better.
    He does not.
    It seems.

  • The Philosopher

    As street smart as he is alleged to be…
    Even the street guy knows what bridges NOT to burn.

  • Jude

    AI and Slam are part of my favourite high school basketball memories. I live 8000 miles away in South Australia. Teachers banned us from warming up to Biggie and Tupac (we we’re allowed Tag Team ‘Whoop there it is’), wearing baggy shorts and fake 10 caret diamond earrings.

    There was a small group of us that loved AI, Payton, Kemp, Sprewell, Penny, Nick Anderson, Finley, Stackhouse , Triple J in Dallas, Webber, Sheed, Jason Williams etc.

    MJ just too perfect and not human, just too slick and main stream to relate to. Hell non ballers loved Jordan, so how could we be seen as cool if we liked him too??

    We all wanted the Sonics to beat Jordan in 1996 so bad, cos everyone else wanted Jordan to win.

    Larry and Magic were POGs (prisoners of gravity) and looked like nerds compared to the new crop of players.

    We were white kids from the suburbs playing basketball, hip hop culture naturally spoke came with that in the 90s and our high school team bonded around it (State title 1995, Final 4 1996).

    Slam was like this underground mag we found that featured all the ‘non mainstream’ players we loved and emulated. It was hard to even get a copy in Australia and when you did all your team mates would borrow it.

    So thank you Slam and thank you AI. You have hundreds of fans that love your work all over the world.

    Every time one of us threw down a two foot one hand leaner we’d always hang on the rim an extra couple seconds as a tribute to AI’s little post dunk rim hangs. Sure we’d get the ‘T’ and get benched by the coach but it was worth it every time.

    Now I’m just another 30 something corporate jerk in a suit, but when I get in my car I quietly put on ‘Hypnotise’, wear my Team USA Kemp singlet to the gym and treasure every issue of Slam sitting on my book shelf.

  • Michael

    lol@ Enigmatic

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    @Ugh: Gervin

  • Thegfunk

    Haha yeh man I guess not. Its hard to feel the magic just on youtube highlights!

  • KB8toSG8

    Are the 17 spots over? Even though I;m a bigger Laker fan…..

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com karan

    very well written article… Btw, i think we’re way past 17… I’m probably number 30 here

  • Hussman25

    Ill say this about Reebok. They did Allen very well, but kinda eased off him once he got into some issues… I think they were still loyal from behind the scenes (even adding him into Wall’s commerical passing the rock off to Wall as sort of a “passing of the torch” move.) SN: DID ANY 1 SEE WHAT HE DID TO MY SIXERS LAST NITE???? He has the WOW factor; which Reebok needs rite now i.e. AI in 1996. Reebok hasnt had a relevant AI shoe in years… They just keep re-releasing The Questions?? Will AI’s line be revered like MJ’s probably not… but Reebok isnt doing anything to try either. Some relationships dont die, they just fade away.

  • Sizzle

    @ Martey. I agree with most of your points. I guess I just feel bad for the guy. He had (I feel still has) some tremendous ability. If only there was a coach who could harness that ability. He would be an excellent energy guy off the bench. Hell, I’d even take him like Denver uses JR Swish. Let him come off the bench and jack up a bunch of shots. I think after Philly though it was tough for him. He went to a team that was centered on another up and coming star that played no defense. Then he went to two non-contenders. I really thought the heat would give him a serious look. I think that may have been the only situation where thosse three and Riley could have sat him down and said we just need you to get 10 points a game. Just shoot open shots. One could only imagine what it could have been like. I hope he thrives in Turkey, but would love to him back in the states.

  • http://ballislife.com Stephon

    Fan #20

  • http://www.twitter.com/chris_griff_3 Chris_Griff_3

    The realest to ever do it. A.I. (the only true “A.I.”) should still be in this league.

  • Thegfunk

    Anyone else see space jam for thrre birthday and get treated to a maccy ds afterwards?

  • the Dude

    Iverson was a hook that the L used to reel in the hood. Now that “hip-hop” is people like Weezy and current fans wear skinny jeans like STAT there’s no need for AI.

    What Iverson did is nothing compared to what Kobe did. But the league doesn’t mid a little forceful adultery only missed games and practices are beyond recompense. Practice!?

    His life is much like his game. Scraping himself up off the floor after getting mauled by people that were at times twice his size.

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Like It’s My Last

  • tavoris

    I wonder if Rodney Stuckey’s refusal to re-enter the game last night is AI’s fault.

  • ish

    wow. lets see, we watch the gaem to see guys play basketball, yet everyone is harping about stuff done off the court. i could give a rats ass about what u do in ur personal time. im watchin to see what u do on the court. so some people seem to think AI i did this all by himself? u dont think the league and the media added major gas to the fire? damn u air brush dudes tats, u get mad at him becuase he went at jordan, dress code, fines for the length of shorts and socks. come on people, i hear all this stuff coming from people who are not in the know. no one mentioned anything about the detroit mess and how RIP co-signed on that, althought it was rather late. funny i saw dude go at kobe too an it was one of the better games of the season yet everyone was tryint o say he needed to come off the bench, one year after being the 3rd leader in scoring. wow. memphis, im not even going to speak on them. the pau gasol heist and the conley robbery should tell u how they handle biz down there. he got back to philly and he tried to be that team player that everyone was crying for and everybody talk cash crap about him. so he was damned either way. just get off the guys back, he is human just like everyone else. y’all need to be talkin about that maniac david stern.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwiE3qjSKwI AJ

    great article. can’t wait for part 2. word on the street is that rbk and ai are over. any truth to it? will be looking forward to what he rocks in turkey, if he ever does manage to get over there and play a game.

  • Tomislav

    Fantastic piece, Todd.