If last year was Iverson’s coming-out party, this year should be his throw-down, all-night-long, block party affair. Last year’s Big East new-jack is supposed to become the player president. He’s a sophomore going on year five in the NBA. Believe the hype. The phenomenal game Toby Bailey had in last year’s final for UCLA? Iverson is expected to make that his norm. After one season of blowin’ up the spot, Allen Iverson has to be the greatest son a father could ever have. The problem is, he just might be.

“I don’t care, I’m going in.” Those were the words read on Iverson’s lips just before he went upstairs and dunked on Joe Smith. Summer ball’n at the Hampton Roads Pro-Am in Norfolk, VA. Legends are built there. This summer Iverson went beyond legendary to mythical. Getting loose in an NBA atmosphere, Iverson put his whole package together and showed the critics what basketball is about on his end. Believe this: he averaged close to 50 points a game against teams that included a host of NBA players. Believe this: he scored over 70 points three times, often playing only half the game. Believe this: he told the coach during the third quarter of a game, down by 26 an with only 20 points, to give him the ball every time down the court. Result? Victory. Oh yeah, Allen finished with 81. Believe it.

“Yeah, I did.” Iverson responds to the legendary tales of summer madness, “I think I play a lot better in an NBA-style. It was wide open, run ’n’ gun, man-to-man all game—and that’s the game I like to play.” allen iverson

Says Wayne Hoffler, executive director of Hampton Roads Pro-Am: “This summer I saw Allen Iverson do things I’ve never ever seen on a basketball court. Everything about his game says ‘NBA All-Star’.

“I’ll take it a step further,” Hoffler continues. “He’s a 6-0 version of Michael Jordan.”

The World Games in Japan saw “The Answer” change gears and run everything. In a far more controlled environment, Iverson played with Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Charles O’Bannon, Dametri Hill, Kerry Kittles and so on and so on.  He led the team in scoring (16.7), assists (6.1) and steals (3.0); shot 56% from the floor and scored 26 points in both the semi-finals and gold medal games while leading the USA to another international victory among the masses. Clock this yo: He only averaged 23 minutes a game.

Ask Craig Miller, World Games organizer, about it, and he’ll give up the gospel. “Sometimes he made the fans, ‘Ahhh,’ when he drove the lane. It was amazing. He’s a big, bigtime player. So quick. And the fact that he had GOOD players around him made it so much easier for him to penetrate and get the ball to other players who finished. It was an experience.

Try to defend Allen Iverson, he’ll make you feel lost like high school geometry. He’ll eat you up like meat and have you praying that he’ll turn vegetarian. He has warped-speed and quickness that makes Kevin Johnson seem slow. At times, however, it can be his biggest weakness instead of his greatest strength.

“A lot of times, I get caught up in the hype of the game and get out of control,” Ive says. “Now I’m working hard on being patient, a lot more than I was last year. I made a lot of freshman-type mistakes, but I matured as the season went on, and I learned a lot of things from game to game.

“That’s the thing Coach talks to me about now, the leadership role and being able to run this team. The point guard position is supposed to be the focal point and run the show and that’s what I have to do (for this team_ and if I’m ever to think about playing at the next level.”

The NBA. Everybody’s mind is on it except Allen’s. See, most people don’t get the chance to know Allen. This is a good thing. The world is no more ready for Allen than he is for the world. He’s a genius trying to stay focused and appreciative, who’s been told to keep his visions limited but never to underestimate himself. It’s the Georgetown paradox. He’s a genuinely soft-spoken kid whose “first love” is football (“I miss the game so much.”), who knew that Deion was going to Dallas as early as July. Of course, this makes him a Cowboy’s fan. He’s a B-average fine arts student who, in his spare time, draws “caricatures of famous people I meet, basketball players and my teammates.” He sees Kenny Anderson, Timmy Hardaway and Nick Van Exel in his game and says his crossover is his lethal weapon 4.

“It’s effective,” he says. “Even if I don’t catch the opponent with it all the way, it’s enough to get me by them.”

He’s a young black man exploiting his way out of the shadows that almost ended his movement before it could begin. His over-publicized, well-documented, ill-fated and uncalled-for felony conviction (for a racially-motivated brawl in Virginia over two years ago) is really not worth mentioning. It doesn’t define him the way it does society. Honestly, Allen needed Johnnie Cochrane for protection. Case closed.