Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Allen Iverson Dilemma...

It's hard to fathom how modern-day athletes, with the insane amounts of money they make, can find themselves penniless within a few years of retirement or after being run out of their respective leagues, but that's exactly where Allen Iverson finds himself today. But before we go forwards, we must look backwards to see how this all played out.

Iverson developed what was at the time a well-deserved martyr complex after being thrown in prison while in high school over a racially instigated brawl in a bowling alley, where despite the number of people involved in the brouhaha and the requisite panic and pandemonium that ensued, only Iverson and three friends (all black) were arrested, with Allen singled out as the instigator and main protagonist. Turns out the motivations of the prosecution and the judge were nefarious and self-serving in a small-town type of way, but not necessarily racist, even though there was some of that thrown in for good measure.

Iverson attended a high school that was the direct rival of another high school which was in a more affluent part of town, where everyone who was anyone in his town graduated from. So Allen had the temerity to break the athletic stranglehold this particular school held by being the baddest motherfucker in basketball AND football, elevating his teams to elite status. For the bowling alley incident, where not one white person was held accountable for their part in the fight, Iverson was given a 15-year sentence that was rescinded after a pardon from the governor four months after he was jailed, just in time for the basketball and football seasons to end. No one is arguing that race relations in Virginia are peachy-keen, but the motivations behind this incident were mixed with jealousy, pride and envy just as much as it involved race.

For those of you who would like to see more on the trial and the ensuing madness, check out the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary No Crossover-The Trial of Allen Iverson"-

Hard not to have a chip on one's shoulder after all that, so I don't blame Iverson's defiant stance against the world, but it doesn't excuse his transformation from clean-cut high school athlete to wanna-be thug. Iverson was NEVER a thug. He wasn't much of a student, either, but that's besides the point. Here is the lesson black athletes who posture for the sake of street credibility fail to realize-once fans begin to universally embrace you, you can chill because everything's gonna be alright. Iverson never received that memo, and if he did, it was drowned out by his homeboys, an entourage that at certain points numbered around fifty. That's fifty jive-ass leeches, all with both hands out looking to bleed him dry.

Iverson's biggest mistake, aside from his idiotic allegiance to the very people that played a major role in his financial ruin, was having children he clearly neglected. He was never cut out to be a father, or any type of role model. He continually let his kids down with the constant boozing, gambling binges where he would sometimes lose as much as one million dollars in one night, and the irresponsible stewardship of his now depleted fortune. Yet he cries on cue whenever he speaks of them in public. I'm not a fan of this type of hollow, overtly emotional showboating, especially when we have records of his divorce proceedings where the judge himself stated he did not think he was fit to be around his own children.

How broke is he now is the question. nobody really knows. He's had his bank accounts frozen by the courts over unpaid child support, property confiscated, and half of his Reebok $30-million dollar endorsement contract, which he can't touch until he's 55, belongs to his ex-wife. What he does between now and then is pure conjecture, seeing as he's remained a recluse and refuses to get help for the only thing besides the cornrows and the attitude problem he'll be known for-a raging and out of control alcohol abuse problem. There is no "Answer" to this one. Blowing through an estimated $155 million in salary and $30-$40 million more in endorsements is inexcusable, especially given today's economic climate, so there will be no pity for this guy. What is unfathomable is how gullible these supposed street-smart cats are to let themselves be bamboozled by their useless friends, and in predictable fashion they all leave once the money's gone. I guess I would drink myself into oblivion too if I woke up one morning to find my career, family, cash, and friends all gone at the same time.

This is a disgraceful end to an incredible and highly improbable sporting life. At the age of 37, which is considered young by today's standards, Allen Iverson is already an old man, unable to pay for the necessities of his children and no longer able to cash any more checks doing the one thing he was ever good at. His problem wasn't just the booze. The drinking is a residual consequence from a life lived at the edge of two diametrically opposed worlds-the grinding poverty and family dysfunction of ghetto life and the bucolic bubble that surrounds any young star athlete. Most inner city dwellers who are out there catching all kinds of hell do so anonymously, where no one can see and no one really cares. They don't have the benefit of a community full of adults who gleefully find nothing warped about putting a teenager on a pedestal simply because he can play ball, and that's where the problem starts-with the enablers.

When the adults in your life who are supposed to supply you with guidance, discipline, and tough love, morph into groupies hovering around you because of your fame, when a young man like Allen Iverson sees how easy it is to manipulate grown men and women for the purpose of avoiding the responsibilities we must all face, when you have ass-kissers and yes-men telling you nothing is ever your fault and that you're the greatest, this is the end result. A fortune wasted, a life on the brink, and innocent children left behind as collateral damage as a testament to a life napalmed to oblivion.

Iverson was the apotheosis of the ultimate playground basketball talent. As a player, he exhibited the prototypical streetball game-a selfish, uncoachable one-on-one chucker with an attitude problem of Pythagorean proportions. The streets are littered with cats like this. The difference is Iverson made it to the big time and excelled despite himself, garnering a rebel-without-a-pause, me-against-the-world persona along the way. It served him well because his talent was incandescent, and suburban white teenagers ate up the myth of the ghetto pirate who made it while bucking the system to the tune of millions of dollars in apparel and sneaker sales. But when the all-night partying, drinking and gambling binges caught up with him, he now has to look at himself and explain to his children what demons drove him to the type of freefall that, unlike his less talented inner city brethren, he was perfectly positioned to avoid and chose not to.

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