He witnessed a murder at age 8, escaped prison despite two firm convictions, and became an NBA icon: The Incredible Life of Allen Iverson

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February 14, 1993. It is Valentine's Day in America. Lots of boys bars hang out on the street. And they meet in the bars of Hampton, a city in the state of Virginia with 135,000 inhabitants. The Hampton Lanes, a downtown bowling alley, is packed. A group of African Americans comes out to play bowling. And another, of slightly older white boys, is having a drink at the local tables. There is more alcohol than usual and the tension begins to show in the environment. The groups exchange a word, the discussion rises in tone, there are shouts, insults appear, then shoves, some punches follow and everything gets out of control. Camp battle. Bottles and chairs fly through the air. There is even a short video that reflects the chaos, without providing too many details. In the center of the scene, Allen Iverson, the city's sports star, star of the Bethel High School basketball and football teams. Some say the discussion was started by Iverson and, on the other side, that whites from Poquoson, a nearby town famous for its racism, started it when they called Iverson nigger. What there is no doubt is that the problem was the same as always in the region, the color of the skin … Something daily in a city absolutely divided by the color of the skin.

What is striking is that only Iverson and part of his group were accused of attacking with chairs, with Allen taking the worst part: prosecuted for hitting a white woman with a chair on her head, from the statement of Brandon Smith, a local employee and Iverson's partner at Bethel. The condemned, then, were only blacks (Iverson and his friends Melvin Stephens, Samuel Wynn and Michael Simmons) and what struck the most was the punishment they gave to a 17-year-old boy involved in a bar fight that he had not had. seriously injured: 15 years in prison, five effective and 10 suspended.

The punishment ended up dividing the city and the protests won the streets. The public pressure was such that it reached the governor of Virginia, the first African American in that position in the history of the country. Iverson spent four months at City Farm Correctional Facility in New Port News until he received a "conditional pardon." by Doug Wilder, who reported it at the end of December, days before his term expired, and citing "insufficient evidence." Something that would be confirmed two years later, when the State Court of Appeal would definitively revoke the conviction.

That fact was the first but not the only serious one that Iverson starred in during his career, which, on the court, was brilliant but outside he had everything and once more he could hurt her to death … His convulsed childhood and adolescence, without his father (Allen Broughton), with a mother too young (Ann), living in a poor neighborhood and in a city with many traces of racism, had marked him with fire.

Allen was always an emotional being, of codes, with few concerns and without much interest in education. He was fortunate to have a white woman (Sue Lambiotti) as his tutor, who pushed him to study and graduate, when he preferred to focus on his people, his group, his neighborhood … And everything else, the others, little interested him. He wanted to be with his people, to be a representative of their culture. That's how it was all his life. As a boy, in the University and even in the NBA, despite the requests in his franchise and the ultimatums that commissioner David Stern gave him.

But, of course, Iverson was always a rebel, sometimes with a cause and sometimes not so much. An icon that represented millions. He was an ordinary person in the NBA. A short among giants. And it was, also, the street in the NBA. For his music, his clothes and his attitude. A cultural transgressor, the ambassador of hip hop, gangster style, tattoos, jewelry and extravagant hairstyles. A guy very close to his own, to the people, capable of doing imitations – his hidden talent – in a children's hospital on Christmas. Admired by many fans, rejected by some, highly respected by his colleagues, although always on the edge … Searching or exceeding the limits with his coaches. Haunted for years by his personal problems, with his wife (to the point of wanting to get her back at gunpoint), with alcohol, with gambling and, sometimes, with society itself. A star who moved far from ideal professionalism: buddies, nightlife, parties, girls and, of course, some excesses … A figure built in the Iverson way, in his own way, the one they taught him on the streets of Hampton …

What there is no doubt that on the court was crack, the best low scorer in history. With just 1m83 he gave an inch advantage in a position with more competition in the NBA and with his small body (74 kilos), he gave an image of fragility. But he was not afraid of anything, or anyone, like on the street. It had dozens of resources, many from paddocks. And he went to the jugular, always. He kept going, never. With a special aura, captivating, summoning … The ring was between eyebrows. He ran between dozens of curtains, escaped from the Golliats and scored. Much.

He was a four-time top scorer of the season (98/99, 01/01, 02/01 and 05/05), 12 years in a row he was above 25 points on average and today, retired since 2010, he occupies the 7th historical position in point average (26.7). It is true, with not so good percentages (42.5% from the field), with questionable selection of shots, but always pulling the car, in teams with few figures, always risking the physical, going to the front. To the point of taking his loved ones Sixers until an NBA final (2001) and make it competitive against those Lakers of Kobe and Shaq who are undoubtedly among the ten best teams in history. It was the season in which he was elected the best (MVP) after averaging 31.1 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

Allen and his mother Ann, who had him at age 15
Allen and his mother Ann, who had him at age 15

Because, beware, in addition to scoring, Bubba Chuck – as he was nicknamed – was like a Tasmanian devil who was everywhere, always aggressive and ready to help the team in its search for victory. He played unleashed, as in the playground, but at the same time taking care of the backs of his companions, with great defensive instincts. Therefore was three times the best stealer in the NBA (between 2000 and 2003) and, at the same time, it helped in the assembly and the generation of the game, despite the energy drain that it caused. A very popular athlete, who drew crowds and He was an idol in Philadelphia, to the point that recently, in a poll, he was voted the best athlete in the city in the last 50 years. A player whose sports legacy opened the doors to other “petisos” who, seeing his success, understood that they could be a figure: from Nate Robinson to today Trae Young, through Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker.

But, of course, before being one of the 30 best players in history and for some the most dominant bass player, Iverson was an American football star in the region. He held many positions in his adolescence (receiver, libero -safety-, runner -running back-, defensive back and even kick returner), all with transcendence and several in the same game, but in which he most shined was as Quarterback.

It is the 10th of football, the one that manages the team. Elusive, fast, with changes of direction, always without fear. In his second season he not only led the basketball team to win the state championship. A few weeks later, he repeated it with American football (the season ran from August to December). Something that did not surprise Bo Henson, coach of secondary EC Glass who lost the final with Bethel. The coach went to see the previous game, to scout his rival and witnessed how Iverson turned a game that he was losing 16-0. He had two rushing touchdowns and another served it with a pass, all in the fourth quarter, for the final 22-16. In the definition, although he warned his subjects, no one paid any attention to him after seeing "how skinny his legs and arms were." AI did everything, in different positions, in the same game. He ran for a touchdown, returned a kick for another, threw for 201 yards and intercepted two passes on defense for the 27-0 thrashing and the first state title since 1976. That's why won the award for best high school player in Virginia from the agency AP, first in American football and then in basketball, after averaging 31.6 points in the conquest of the title.

Tom Lemming is a storied scout with 40 years of young talent experience, and he has no doubts how good The Answer was. “He had a shocking reaction, a lot of instincts, loose hips and a great verticality. For me, he was a great player, not just a good one. I could have reached the NBA and maybe, why not, be a figure and reach the Hall of Fame, "he said on the site Vice sports. There he was trained by Gary Moore, a tough coach who was always impressed by the boy's mental capacity. “His aggressiveness and enthusiasm was what I admired the most about him. On the court, he changed direction, "danced", he did not allow himself to be touched by rivals. It was special, "he said in the spectacular Showtime documentary that premiered in 2014 to tell the story of this talent. Iverson was an attraction. The stadium was packed to see their electrifying game – similar to what would happen years later in the NBA – and the team almost always won. That is why it was natural that coaches from different universities came to see him, in practices and games. They assure that the one who followed him the most was Florida State, one of the top programs in the USA, to replace Charlie Ward, that Knicks point guard who shone as a college quarterback and then made the leap to the NBA.

Sport was his refuge in very difficult years. As happens so often in the lower classes of the United States, the father abandoned the family. And the mother, who had him at just 15 years old, had to face a life for which she was not prepared, with two daily jobs to maintain a state-subsidized house located in one of the harshest neighborhoods in Hampton..

Allen, for example, was eight years old when he witnessed his first murder … The mother was little at home and, in order not to be at the mercy of the street, the boy spent days living with relatives and even in the homes of his trainers. Allen was an easy bait: he didn't like school, missed a lot, and spent a lot of time on street corners, flirting with temptations and dangers. In those years, he saw how several acquaintances went to jail or perished in gang duels. Allen was 16 when his best friend was stabbed and passed away… And 17 when Dennis Kozlowski, coach and director of high school athletics, received a call from a police friend. "We have Iverson taped entering a drug house in Newport News. We could have arrested him … But I preferred to call my boss to let him know that I would call you first. I don't want to ruin your (sports) chances, ”he told her. Koz, as he was called, thanked the gesture and went to talk to Allen. The boy denied that the drugs were for him and the manager believed him when he heard the sad story. "My mother gave me the money, the drugs were for her," he confessed, ashamed, according to the coach. Koz understood then that the fault was not his, but he told him not to do it anymore, because his dreams of being a professional sportsman would go away forever if the Police arrested him …

A few weeks later that was what happened, although not because of drugs but on that fateful night in February 1993. The charge after the fight was framed within article 18.2-41 of the Virginia Penal Code, which speaks of collectively participating in attacks on people . “Any citizen that constitutes a crowd that maliciously or outside the law shoots, stabs, cuts or injures another person, in his quest to disable, disfigure or kill, will be charged with grade 3 of the crime that ranges from 5 to 20 years in prison and a fine of $ 100,000 ”. A law that was included after the Civil War to protect blacks from lynchings and that, by including the word “malicious”, allowed the four boys present in the brawl to be convicted without the need for proof of the motive for the attack. For being so violent, they defined that they had sought to seriously injure even if they had not succeeded and that was the verdict. Others believed that this happened only because he was black and successful, that the white hegemony sought to give a message, even more so to an athlete who was seen as arrogant, even for a part of his community, as can be seen in the documentary "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson”.

It is an episode of the famous 30×30 saga of ESPN directed by Steve James, precisely a native of Hampton, perhaps the ideal person to do it, because he is white and knows all the background that always existed in the city. We are talking about a city that, in the years that James played in the rival university of Bethel, the white fans went to a rostrum and cheered only the players of the same skin, and the blacks did the same. The Iverson case increased the tension. “The (slave) plantations of the 21st century are the prisons,” shouted Joyce Hobson, an organizer of the protests, calling for the release of Allen and his friends.

In the documentary, she told how the subject was lived at the time. “My parents sent us all to college, but they gave us permission to fight anyone who called us 'nigger' and not by name, as happened with Iverson. What did you think Allen should have done? ”He mused. The documentary exposes how racism played a role in the trial (Judge Oberson denied bail even though only murderers are often deprived of that right), as did Iverson's fame. Allen went to a minimum security penitentiary with more comforts, worked in the bakery and could shoot in a hoop in the yard. His friends went to another prison and they weren't so lucky… “His poster surely made him a prisoner, but it also got him released quickly. That the governor was black and was leaving were also things that helped ”, almost everyone assures.

The truth is that, by mid-1993, Iverson was already at liberty, although the problem with Justice had scared off many universities. That's where his mother came on the scene: he begged for an interview with the coach who wanted him to take him away, John Thompson. He got it, traveled to Georgetown and asked her to help him, to take his son away from Virginia. Anecdote that the coach himself would confirm. This happened and, quickly, Iverson stood out in basketball (20.5 points and 4.5 assists in the first season). But, of course, he missed his other love, football. In 2012, in a note with the magazine SlamAllen admitted to asking Thompson to let him play both sports.

-I'll tell you what I think about that (pause)… If you don't get that skinny black ass out of my sight right now, you'll see…

Iverson was out of the office before he finished his sentence. “I never thought about playing football again. He made it clear to me, ”he admitted, laughing, who even today fantasizes about what might have happened if he continued with the oval. “Soccer will always be my No. 1 sport, my first love. But God has his way of doing things ”, he reflected. Thompson became more than his manager. It was his surrogate father, the one who put him on the trail. “When my attitude was not correct, he asked me if I wanted to go back to the ghetto and then I would put the batteries. He saved my life and gave me an opportunity when no one else did, "he recalled a bit ago in a post on networks. Iverson played one more season (25 points and 4.7 assists to be named one of the nation's ideal five) before making the jump to the NBA, which was rushed by his sister's illness, which needed expensive medications.

In 1996 he was chosen in the first place of a powerful draft and signed a contract with David Falk, Michael Jordan's famous agent who landed him a 50 million contract with Reebok.. Allen did not disappoint. His spectacular play electrified the entire city and the NBA from his opening season. It was already noticeable that he had a special aura and a captivating style of play: fast, unpredictable, with changes of direction and dazzling scores. A David before Goliaths. His impressive numbers (23.5 points, 7.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals) allowed him to be chosen the Best Rookie of the Year. But it would not be Iverson if he did not come with the complete combo … And he qualified the great thing on the court with controversies outside. A few months after receiving the award, He was stopped by the Richmond Police (Virginia) for driving at high speed. The problem was when they searched the car and found marijuana and a gun. Allen was on all the news again and received three years of probation.

Iverson's revenge on Michael Jordan

On the court, yes, he always took charge, injecting his determination, energy and talent, qualities that can be exemplified in that mythical crossover (change of direction) that left Jordan standing on March 12, 1997. Or in that game of 50 points against Cleveland, a month later. “Allen brought his mentality, his claw, the throwing himself on the ground, sweating, crying, bleeding… Philadelphia loves that. They gave him real beatings, but he always got up and came back, "said Pat Croce, president of the franchise from 1996 to 2001, in a note with Bleacher Report. Croce watched the stadium fill up every night like in the days of Doctor J or Charles Barkley. In season two, the 76ers had 13 more wins than without him, and in the reduced 98/99 season they reached the second round of the playoffs.

The illusion returned to the city with its new great little star, who took his award by renewing by 70 million and six years. The following season, Iverson jumped to 28.4 points and the team won 49 games, but the problems returned, in this case with Larry Brown, an old guard coach (at the time 60 years old), who represented the opposite of Iverson. . “They come from two different worlds. One is hip hop and the other is doo-wop, ”Croce once sketched, comparing the two styles of music they both loved.

"I've trained Reggie Miller, Danny Manning, Bobby Jones, Billy Cunningham, Dan Issel and David Thompson, but I never faced a challenge like him," he admitted. Larry, a tough, less patient father figure than Thompson, grew weary of A.I.'s constant lack of professionalism. (bad training, fouls, late arrivals). First he imposed fines and at the end, fed up, asked for his transfer after a game in Detroit… “It was like that. But Iverson also called me and asked me to kick him out, "Croce recalled to the site. Bleacher Report, in 2014. A bomb inside the 76ers that the manager decided to defuse in a meeting.

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Larry, I'm not trading Allen. And Allen, I'm not firing Larry. It is a fact. They are both very talented, the best there is. But they are very stubborn. If you look in the mirror, you will see the other … They have the same goal, only they have different shapes. Allen, the coach doesn't like it when he takes you out and you make that son of a bitch face. Would you do that to your mother? It is a lack of respect. I don't care how much you want to play, that is up to the coach. And Larry, Allen doesn't like it when you treat him like a white jail guard, like saying 'nigger, sit down'. This is how Allen feels, that you disrespect him… They are both treating each other in the wrong way. They can do better and empower the team.

That was the speech Croce made. That day, Iverson and Brown sat down and talked. For hours. And there was commitment of both, with a promise of the figure. "The most important season of my career is coming," he assured her, knowing that the fall of the Bulls Empire had left the East more open than ever. The team's 10-0 to start the campaign reflected this. The same as the dedication to his coach after scoring 49 points against Milwaukee on February 13. The promised had been fulfilled: 56-26 record and division title. In playoffs, 3-1 to Indiana and the long-awaited duel against the Raptors of Vince Carter. An epic series that the 76ers won 4-3, with Allen enduring extreme pain in his right elbow.

The bursitis got to the point where the protections he was wearing on his arm didn't even limit the pain of a raw, swollen elbow. But he never stopped going to the front. In the second game he scored 54 points and in the fifth, 52. When the 7th arrived, he was no more. Doctors advised him not to play. But he paid no attention and, when he saw that the rival was overriding him and his shot was not there (8-27 from the field), he distributed 16 assists for the team to reach the long-awaited final in the East in an agonizing final (88-87 ).

The Bucks expected it. Of course, the bursitis, far from diminishing, became extreme. Stitches in the elbow did not allow him to shoot or dribble comfortably. An annoying pain that was noted in the defeat in the second game (5-26 from the field) that tied the final at home. The doctors, then, decided that he would not play the third in Milwaukee and it was defeat. Down 2-1, Iverson returned for the fourth. And the rivals made him feel the rigor. Ray Allen's elbow to the mouth took him out of the game. But he came back: his 28 points and 8 assists made him the hero of the 2-2 away game. The Bucks kept up the physical game on him, knowing it was all about his imbalance. Scott Williams, that rough ex-teammate of Jordan in the Bulls, gave him another devious elbow in the sixth game that caused the NBA to suspend him for the 7th. Nothing intimidated or stopped Iverson, author of 46 points in the 6th and 44 in the 7th to reach the stage he had always dreamed of: the NBA final. For the Sixers, the first time in 18 years. A convulsed city, excited. On the shoulders of the little giant, capable of leading to that place despite being surrounded by good players, but no figure (Mutombo, McKie, Raja Bell, Lynch and Geiger, for example).

Nothing could have started better. On June 6, in Los Angeles, before the mythical Lakers, Iverson stole the show that should belong to Shaq and Kobe. He scored 46 points, gave six assists, stole five balls and dropped five rebounds to star in a soliloquy worthy of a megastar. Phil Jackson sent the unbearable Tyronne Lue out of the game but there is a mythical photo that summarizes how the experiment ended: Lue on the floor after being ridiculed by a new conversion of his attacker and Allen passing him with a long step, avoiding stepping on him. The 107-101 took away a 19-game undefeated favorite (11 in the playoffs), but made something clear: it had been almost a miracle of one person.

The series was featured as Iverson against the Lakers. A reality that would be reflected in the next four games, all Angelenos triumphs, reflecting the far superior power of a team that was on its way to the three-time championship. The defeat, however, did not diminish the status of Allen, who suddenly confirmed himself as a hero, an inspiring boy, capable of playing, in silence, with sprains, dislocated fingers, inflammations, contractures, synovitis and even fractures, as happened. with his left hand in the following season.

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Allen knew, after that slap from Tony Battie at the beginning of the game, but he only told one teammate (Eric Snow). He scored 22 points until the medical staff found out and took him to the hospital. "Allen was a man who believed in himself so much that he made you believe in him," Croce recalled. But, of course, not everything can fall on a man. The campaign that followed the runner-up was not expected. The team was able to be complete in just three games (out of 82) and the loss in the first round of the playoffs against Boston left consequences: there was again talk of his lack of commitment, his lack of practice and Allen felt that they were making him look like A lazy person. Then, on May 7, 2002, he faced journalists in a press conference that became famous because No. 3 repeated the word “training” 22 times in 82 seconds. “We are not talking about the game for which I give my life. Have you seen me play, have you seen me leave everything? Yes? But they are talking about practices, how silly is that? ”, Could be a summary of that historic media round.

The frustration of A.I. He moved into his personal life, specifically his relationship with his wife Tawanna Turner, his girlfriend since he was 16 years old and the mother, until that moment, of two of his five current children (Tiaura, Allen II, Isaiah, Messiah and Dream). AND One night Allen's chain came off again. In the worst way.

Early morning of July 3, 2002.

Iverson is berserk, out of focus. He got into a fight with his wife in the street and she left. Angry, even jealous, he looks for her. Call your Uncle Greg and ask him to join you. He thinks he knows where he is. Before getting in the car, grab a gun. He goes to Chestnut Street, punctually to an apartment whose rent he pays for himself. He gets out of the car, carries the gun in his hand and, when he stops at the door, hits it with the handle of the revolver. "I opened, I opened, it's me," he shouts. On the other side, they listen to him and the star jostles. He goes straight into the room and turns on the light. In bed, covered by the sheets, is Shawn Bowman, his cousin, but not the person he is looking for. Shouting, he asks where he is. The scared boy can't respond, but his roommate, Charles Jones, adds tension. "Where's who?" He asks from the hall. Allen turns and raises the gun pointed at his forehead. The boy trembles.

-Tell me where is Tawanna because I kill you …

Shawn intercedes, as he can, almost babbling …

-Cousin, he's not here, he didn't come. I swear, put the gun down, please.

Iverson points at him, thinks for two seconds, his uncle talks to him, they turn and leave.

A week later The Answer would be indicted for assault and threats. The statement of a city cleaning employee, who claimed to have seen him carrying a weapon as he crossed the street and entered the apartment was key. Iverson would surrender 13 days later to face 14 charges for which he risked a total of 70 years in prison. At the end of June, he would be released from 12 after Judge James DeLeon said that he had noticed contradictions between the witnesses and already in September the prosecuting party would withdraw the other two. Relief. Although not everything would end there. In November, the star would make a serious complaint, speaking in the third person. Allen Iverson could be found dead tomorrow if a corrupt cop wishes his death. That simple I want to live in Philadelphia, but I'm scared ". The Police would deny any threat and the waters would calm down outside the field, but in sports, strong winds of change would begin to blow, punctually in the franchise …

In 2003, feeling that his with Iverson was completed, coach Larry moved to Detroit to promote the Pistons who would be champions in 2004 and runners-up in 2005. That year, precisely, they would end a great campaign for Allen, NBA scorer with 30.3 points, by eliminating the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. Although Larry did not hold a grudge, on the contrary… “When I started training him, I thought he was a great athlete who didn't know how to play and I really doubted if he could learn… Today he is no longer a talented renegade boy who doesn't know how to play as a team. He is a guy that everyone admires for his toughness and character ”, declared the DT. In the following season (06/05), The Answer would raise the average to 33 points, but the team would fare worse despite having Chris Webber, Andre Iguodala and Kyle Korver as teammates. He wouldn't even play the playoffs… The end was drawing near. It would actually arrive on December 20, 2006. After ten years as a symbol of the Sixers, Iverson was traded to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round picks. “Allen left, it's hard to accept. An icon of the franchise. But we have to move forward, "said Billy King, president of the Sixers at the time.

In Denver he joined Carmelo Anthony trying to reissue a top scorers pair. They did it in the first season, with # 3 scoring 26.4 points and the Nuggets winning 50 games, but the sweep against the Lakers in the first round cut the illusion. Denver quickly gave up on the experiment, and in November 2008, A.I. He was traded to Detroit, where he started well but then, after an injury, he no longer sat off the bench and asked to leave. Sure, at that point, the injuries and problems off the field were many. He tried to go back to Memphis and it lasted two months. His beloved Philadelphia returned to close his career, but he only played a handful of games (24). It was when his youngest daughter, Messiah, was diagnosed with a serious illness and Allen stopped playing. Newly He returned, out of financial necessity, at Turkish Besiktas, but a knee injury only allowed him to play 10 games. He returned to the United States to recover but never to Turkey and not to the NBA, despite various attempts. On October 30, 2013, the guard officially retired, in March 2014 the 76ers removed his jersey in an emotional ceremony and in April 2016 he entered the legendary Hall of Fame. Not without controversy, as almost always.

And perhaps there is no greater controversy than the relationship he had with the establishment in general and the NBA, an icon of that elite, in particular. Iverson, unlike the vast majority of stars who have been partners with the league on its way to stardom, had a quiet war, especially with David Stern. Allen was a cultural transgressor who, with a particular vibe and a defiant attitude, united sport with hip hop as no one had ever been able to before. Stern never liked the image of No. 3. In every way. It was the opposite of what the commissioner was exporting to the world. Su forma de vestirse, los piercing, tatuajes, peinados, la actitud casi pendenciera, su forma de expresarse y hasta la música que hacía… Allen reinventó la imagen de la estrella pero, en el camino, desafió la impoluta imagen que la NBA tenía gracias al marketing trazado por Stern. Lo primero que encontró el mandamás de la competencia para ponerle límites fueron sus temas de rap. En el 2002, Allen grabó un álbum llamado 40 Bars que tenía letras polémicas. Stern, entonces, exigió al jugador que eliminara los pasajes que entendía como instigadores de discriminación hacia los homosexuales y las mujeres. La oleada de críticas y la presión de la NBA hicieron que ni siquiera pudiera sacarlo al mercado…

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Sin embargo, el enfrentamiento silencioso entre las partes no desapareció. La estrella fue varias veces multada por su equipación en la cancha. The Answer usaba mangas que cubrían su brazo derecho, una codera en el izquierdo, vinchas y hasta protectores de dedos que lo convertían en un “desorden estético”. Así fue que, en el 2005, con apoyo del sindicato de jugadores, Stern estableció un código de vestimenta que se conoció, entre bambalinas, como la Ley Iverson. Para ese entonces la moda A.I. se había popularizado y la NBA dijo basta: prohibió que los jugadores usaran camisetas sin mangas o a la altura de las rodillas, pantalones anchos, gorras de béisbol, bandanas, lentes de sol en los estadios, joyas colgantes o botas. En resumen, gran parte de la conocida “cultura hip hop”. Para quienes infringieran la disposición dispuso multas de hasta de 10.000 dólares y sanciones más graves por repetidas violaciones.

La estrella hizo su descargo. “Yo nunca traté de generar nada especial ni diferente. Este era el estilo de vestir que se usaba de donde yo vengo. No lo inventé: así se vestían los chicos con los que crecí. Sólo les dijo que la manera de vestirme no cambiará mi forma de ser”, dijo el fiel representante de la cultura callejera para finalizar con un mensaje más duro contra Stern y compañía. “Asociar la vestimenta hip hop con la violencia, las drogas o la mala imagen es de racistas”, dijo, aclarando que eran muchas las marcas asociadas a la NBA que estaban influidas por esta nueva cultura.

Tenía razón: a esta altura, Iverson ya había traspasado la barrera del deporte y, a su forma, estaba popularizando la NBA en otros estratos sociales donde antes le había costado ingresar. Allen era su representante, su vínculo emocional, un antes y un después. Es que Iverson no tenía dobleces: era igual adentro y afuera de la cancha, desenfadado, caradura, un tipo que empujaba los límites… Y los hinchas lo apreciaban. Por eso se convirtió en un fenómeno de masas y traspasó fronteras para ser un ícono cultural a nivel mundial. Y, en definitiva, a pesar de Stern, terminó siendo un embajador de la marca en los lugares donde la NBA era vista como “careta”. Y, dando vuelta la relación, un pionero en reflejar una cultura de masas que quería su lugar en la elite. “Iverson tuvo más influencia que Wilt (Chamberlain) y Julius (Erving). Los fanáticos lo amaban y seguían, se sienten identificado por él. Es mucho más que una estrella en la cancha. Allen es un imagen cultural”, dijo Pat Williams, ejecutivo de elite nacido en Filadelfia que pasara por los 76ers.

Ya retirado, los problemas no menguaron. Parecían perseguirlo o ser inherentes a él. Ya en el final de su carrera se conoció que estaba casi en bancarrota pese a haber embolsado 155 millones en salarios y al menos otros 70 en acuerdos de patrocinio durante su carrera. Su descontrolado estilo de vida, que incluía largas noches en los casinos, lo había llevado a esa penosa situación. Pero, claro, nadie, a lo largo del tiempo, podía vivir como lo hacía Allen. En el 2003, por caso, los periodistas argentinos fueron testigos durante el Preolímpico en Puerto Rico que Iverson, integrante del seleccionado de USA, se movía con un séquito de al menos 20 personas, más que nada amigos, formando casi una banda de adolescentes. Todos solventados por la billetera de la figura porque Allen también era así, de devolver a los suyos, de ayudarlos mientras pudiera…

Los problemas con Tawanna nunca cesaron y su esposa solicitó el divorcio el 2 de marzo del 2010, pidiendo la custodia de sus hijos y el pago de manutención y pensión alimentaria. Ahí empezó una caída emocional y financiera que el periodista Kant Babb detalla en el libro “No es un juego: la increíble ascensión y la impensada caída de Allen Iverson”. Sufrió momentos de extrema tristeza, como cuando no podía pasar a buscar a sus hijos al colegio porque no sabía a cuál establecimiento asistían o aquellas noches enteras que pasaba tirado en sillones o en su cama, tomando botellas enteras de alcohol. Sus incumplimientos e irresponsabilidad lo llevaron, en diciembre del 2012, a perder la lujosa mansión de Atlanta, valuada en 4.5 millones. Por eso quiso volver a la NBA, incluso a la G League, pero nunca pudo concretarlo, en parte porque aseguran que desde la organización nunca se lo facilitaron… Sus dramas, entonces, se ahondaron.

En 2013, su esposa lo denunció por secuestrar a sus propios hijos. En realidad, tras unas mini vacaciones, Allen nunca los devolvió en la fecha pautada y ella dijo que tenía miedo por la adicción de su ex. “Es un alcohólico que se emborracha delante de sus hijos”, declaró. Un problema que confirmó Stephen Smith, el periodista más cercano a la estrella. “Estoy preocupado porque bebe demasiado”, admitió. Una adicción que habría que sumar a los graves problemas con las apuestas que se desataron en la época y que fueron reflejados en actos de indisciplinas en varios casinos -llevaron a que fue prohibido de por vida en al menos dos de Atlantic City y otro en Detroit-.

Hoy, años después, parece ser otro. No hay noticias de sus excesos o adicciones, tampoco de escándalos públicos. La calma ha vuelto a su vida y sus redes sociales muestran agradecimiento a quienes lo ayudaron y mucho amor con sus hijos, tratando de recuperar el tiempo perdido. Su círculo íntimo asegura que está mejor, con una situación financiera algo más holgada y con una imagen social mucho menos polémica y confrontativa.

La moda que impuso lo ayuda. Mantiene aquella imagen, casi de eterno rebelde, y la vende. Haber sido un fenómeno de masas, global, sin fronteras, sigue siendo algo muy fuerte, un ícono vivo de una generación que sigue vigente. Muchos chicos se siguen vistiendo como él y consumen sus proezas en las redes. Iverson, de alguna forma, sigue siendo una inspiración para muchos. Como cuando era ese “petiso” de 1m83 que se animaba ante todos, capaz de desafiar a los más grandes, de jugar dolorido, lesionado, y de guiar a grandes triunfos a un equipo sin otras figuras. Su paso por la NBA fue muy especial, inolvidable. Por su rebeldía dentro y fuera de la cancha. Amado por muchos, rechazado por algunos, lo que seguro no puede renegar Allen Iverson es de haber hecho las cosas a su manera…

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