The Odyssey Of Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson“My No. 1 goal is trying to accomplish to be the best dad that I can. And if basketball is in my near future, then God will make that happen. But if not, I had a great ride and I’ve done a lot of special things that a lot of guys have not been able to accomplish and people thought I couldn’t accomplish.”

God, or Iverson, decided his basketball fate shortly after this speech at a 76ers game.

Allen Iverson has decided to retire from his bumpy and controversial career, silencing the prophet’s whisper of “return”.

What was left is a legacy of broken ankles, broken records, and broken dreams.

AI was a tragic character, straight out of a ghetto “Homer” epic. His heroics, mystery, and size inspired the street ballers of West Virginia. Yet his journey replicated the characters on the murals on Hampton’s old St. John’s Church; Tragic, painful; sacrificial.

Allen Iverson witnessed his first murder at the innocent age of 8. His dead friend, lying lifeless on the streets near Iverson’s house, must have sparked his lonely heart. The bouncing of his ball, macabrely echoing through the streets at dusk, kept Iverson sane through his visions of death, drug abuse, and poverty.

The cold floor of a jail cell greeted Iverson after a racially tense altercation he had at a bowling alley. His character seemed to strengthen the longer he spent in prison: “I had to use the whole jail situation as something positive. Going to jail, someone sees something weak in you, they’ll exploit it. I never showed any weakness. I just kept going strong until I came out.”

The government pardoned him after insufficient evidence could be found. Iverson had already spent 4 months in prison.

After finishing his senior year, he was invited to play at Georgetown University. Coach Thompson was so impressed by Iverson senior performance he felt AI could contribute majorly to his big-man dominated team. A seemingly conflicted archetype, after witnessing murders and spending time in prison, had just been given an elixir of life in the form of a scholarship.

Iverson lead the Hoyas into a Sweet 16 seeding, yet lost to the North Carolina powerhouse.

His sophomore (and final) season Allen Iverson reached glory by winning the Big East Championship and crusading all the way to the Elite 8 (losing to Massachusetts). Soon after exiting the March Madness Tournament, Iverson proudly declared for the draft.

Allen Iverson, fueled by the still raging anger of the death of so many of his friends at Hampton, his incarcerated father, and failing to grasp the NCAA championship, was selected as the #1 draft pick of 1996. Landing on the fertile soils of the 76ers franchise, he would unite with Mutumbo and go on various playoff runs with his team. His professional career couldn’t be captured with words. Only a YouTube video of him stepping over his victims after humiliation could show his promising talent. He battled Shaq for MVP and won, left to the Nuggets in ‘06, and coexisted with, easy-going charmer, Carmelo Anthony.

Much like every hero, the higher his climb must be met with an equally long fall. Iverson had been banned in almost all Atlanta and Detroit casinos. He would “either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away” as Stephen A. Smith reported. Coinciding with earlier reports of him urinating in trashcans in 1997 being released, in November 2010 reports circled of Iverson’s bankruptcy.

Iverson’s last professional basketball game was played in Turkey, in 2011.

“The change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity.”

Aristotle’s scheme of what makes a tragic character may not entirely match with Allen Iverson’s life and career. Yet Allen Iverson was not heartless. He was a revolutionary of basketball and pop culture. He possessed integrity and courage that, although unorthodox, showed a real man. A complicated man.

A genius.

An idealist

A tragedy.

Ben Thomas

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