NBA: In the case of Allen Iverson, the truth hurts
By Stephen A. Smith
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA ó Once upon a time it was hard to determine what was more difficult to stomach: the foolish, detrimental behavior of professional athletes or the apologists disguised as their inner circle, eager to excuse the inexcusable. And then there came Allen Iverson, who didnít make it difficult at all.
We can sit around and pretend that Iverson was victimized last week. That somehow he was outed and his personal business was thrown out into the street. But the truth is, from missed practices to excessive tardiness to a flagrant disdain for authority in any venue heís frequented in the past decade, nothing new about Iversonís habits was revealed in the last few days.
If only the same can be said about the rest of us.
Sadly, including myself.
Itís been a difficult week, folks! Iíll just put it out there. After revealing whatís been heard for years about Iversonís drinking and penchant for the casinos, Iíve received the kind of beatdown only Joe Frazier can relate to from the pummeling he suffered against George Foreman decades ago.
Iíve been vilified and excoriated, called a turncoat and a sellout, unworthy of so much as a handshake from several members of Iversonís former team, the 76ers ó the last people in need of more adversaries.
The truth is, I deserve it. Despite the objectivity exercised while disseminating the news, itís impossible to be completely impartial about someone youíve known for 14 years and are incredibly fond of despite the innumerable mistakes heís made.
The thing is, if Iím honest enough to express these feelings about Iverson, to stand up and say none of us who care should sit idly by and act as if the combination of Iversonís history in the fast lane and his present family issues will be healed by silence, where are his so-called friends, the ones with the all-is-well expressions while knowing thereís mounting evidence to the contrary?
No one said Iverson is an alcoholic or a gambling addict. What was reported was that heís drinking and gambling too much, enough to concern quite a few people in the NBA.
Saying what needed to be said is something I donít regret. The truth hurts sometimes, particularly when it involves someone at a low point in their life. Electing to stand alone, however, while a bevy of individuals ó former teammates, locker room personnel, team executives, hangers-on, and his business manager ó stand around in silence was perhaps the most questionable decision of all.
Most of us have heard about the mistakes Iverson has made, but what about the teammates who witnessed them? What about Iverson being in casinos at 3 a.m. on game days? What about calls into this newspaperís newsroom of Iverson being in Philadelphia while his daughter was ill ó when Iversonís closest confidant, Gary Moore, was reported saying Iverson was in Atlanta?
Before any of that, there was Iverson going from Denver to Detroit to Memphis inside of two years, missing 82 games along the way, and struggling to find a job before the Sixers came to the rescue two months ago. All while his health was deteriorating, reportedly along with that of his daughter Messiah ó before the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported his wife, Tawanna, had filed for a divorce last week and was pursuing custody of their five children.
Is this living life in darkness? Behind closed doors? In privacy, where no one could dare opine about business they knew nothing of?
To swear such things is utter nonsense. Totally undeserving of any discussion. But this is the way it has always been with Iverson, as it is with most athletes.
Associates swear they were completely oblivious to anything Tiger Woods was doing. Michael Vickís boys had no problem with anything related to dogfighting until they stopped getting paid and were threatened with jail time once the feds came knocking on their door.
So many talk so much about how much they love Iverson. So much so that once we all heard of the divorce, those same ďfriendsĒ feigned ignorance or a none-of-my-business mentality.
Iverson is human. Losing his career and family all at once ó these things can happen.
ďItís always hard for friends and loved ones to step in and do whatís right,Ē former Temple coach John Chaney said last week. ďBut that is what friends and loved ones do. They must.Ē
Especially with Iverson.
Times right now are not about what Iverson has been doing. Itís about what heíll do next. While living fast, heís potentially losing the one thing that means most to him: his family.
Focusing on family would be a beautiful thing for anyone to do under such difficult circumstances, but how often does that happen ó particularly with someone living the life heís lived?
And those closest to him sat around, watched, and did virtually nothing.