Monday / August 26 / 2013
homer sayson

AP File Photo

CHICAGO -- He grew up without a dad and was raised by a single mother, who was only 15 when she had him.

Obviously, his life wasn't scripted like those we read on the glossy pages of a fairy tale. And it would only get worse.

At age 17, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for allegedly smashing a woman's head with a chair during a violent, racially-charged melee at a Hampton, Virginia bowling alley in February 1993.

And though an appeals court would later overturn the felony conviction, he did lose his freedom and went through the indignity of spending four months behind the iron bars.

Despite fate's cruel blows, Allen Iverson, a tough kid with a fragile soul, somehow managed to carve one of the most colorful and productive careers the NBA has ever seen.

But out of the league since 2010 and inactive since 2011 following a stint in Turkey, Iverson's basketball career has reached its final stop. As first reported by Slam online, the 38-year old superstar will formally announce his retirement in the coming days.

And oh my, what a journey it has been.

Picked No.1 overall in the 1996 draft, he won Rookie of the Year honors in 1997.  A 9-time All-Star, he was named league MVP in 2001 and averaged 26.7 points and 6.2 assists per game throughout his 14 years in the NBA.

As my Philippines colleague Joey Villar already pointed out in his last column "The Answer," Iverson's grandest moment came in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals when he led the Philadelhia 76ers to a stunning 107-101 overtime victory over the highly-favored Los Angeles Lakers.

Anchored by a lean and mean Shaquille O'Neal and powered by the venomous Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, the bigger, stronger and deeply talented Lakers eventually won the series in five games and clinched the second leg of their historic 3-peat.

But AI's Game 1 splendor -- 48 points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals -- will forever be stamped in Finals lore.

 Iverson won't likely be the best Sixer ever, well behind Julius "Dr.J" Irving and Charles Barkley, but he will always be a cult hero among hoops fans in Philly, where he won the NBA scoring title four times and scored at least 40 points 76 times while wearing the Sixers uniform.

In 914 regular season games, AI amassed a total of 24,368 points, 5,624 assists, 3394 rebounds and 1,983 steals. Those numbers will most certainly punch him a ticket in the Hall-of-Fame.

Off the court, however, Iverson wasn't as successful. Troubles followed him like the double teams he routinely ditched on the playing field.

There was a contentious divorce with ex-wife Tawanna Iverson which was mercifully settled on February this year. There were rampant reports on excessive drinking and gambling as well as whispers about the use of recreational drugs.

Despite wildly spending money like it had an expiration date, Iverson is not broke, contrary to media reports. Hall-of-Fame NBA writer Peter Vecsey of the New York Post wrote in a March 2012 article that Iverson has tucked in $32 million which he can't touch until he's 55. Meanwhile, that $32 million gives Iverson $1 million a year in interests.

Also, seven years from now, when he's 45, Iverson will begin collecting a monthly NBA pension of $8,000 for 10 years.

I had the good fortune of covering Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 2001 NBA Finals at the First Union Arena in Philadelphia.

It was one of the best Finals trips I took. Beyonce' and Destiny's Child performed one of the halftime shows. Shaq, in his prime, abused Dikembe Motumbo like a stepchild while Kobe, in his fiercest, was unstoppable as a flash flood. And Phil Jackson was full of Zen and winning plays.

But I still marvel at how Iverson, a mere 6-feet and 165 pounds, was able to penetrate the Lakers defense like hot knife on cold butter. The pounding he took in the lane was brutal and immense, but each time he crumpled on the floor, he just dusted himself off and scored some more.

You can say what you want about his reluctance to practice. Feel free to find fault in his inability to make the extra pass. Heck, you can even judge him for his off court infractions as you please.

But this you can't deny; Allen Iverson was a darn good player, inarguably top 10 among the NBA's greatest guards. 

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