Allen Ezail Iverson (born June 7, 1975, in Hampton, Virginia), nicknamed A.I. and The Answer, is an American professional basketball player for the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association. He is an All-Star point/shooting guard. He is considered to be among the greatest guards of his generation and one of the most prolific and consistent scorers in the history of the game (his career average of 28.0 points per contest is third all-time behind only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain).
In his days at Bethel High School in Hampton, Iverson was a star football and basketball player. He had scholarship offers from all over the country. As the quarterback of the football team, Iverson led Bethel to a state championship his junior year. After winning the game he was interviewed and answered a question by saying "Now we goin' to get one in basketball", which he did. He was in the midst of leading the school's basketball team to a state title the next year when he went to a Hampton bowling alley with friends on Valentine's Day 1993. A brawl broke out between Iverson's friends, all of whom were African-American, and several white teenagers.
Iverson claims that the brawl was triggered by racial slurs, and although the level of his involvement remains unclear -- he has maintained his innocence -- Iverson was alleged to have hit a woman in the head with a chair. He and three other African-American youths were arrested.
At 17, Iverson was convicted on a felony charge of "maiming-by-mob" and drew a 15-year prison sentence, with 10 years suspended. All scholarship offers were quickly rescinded. He spent four months at the Newport News City Farm before Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder granted him a pardon. In 1995, the Virginia Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, citing insufficient evidence of his guilt.
While Iverson was in prison, his mother visited Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson in December 1993, begging him to help her son. "She was the reason why I helped her child," Thompson said.
In spring 1994, he visited Iverson at Hampton's Richard Milburn High, a school that catered to at-risk students or students who already had dropped out of high school. Thompson told the prolific guard that he would offer him a scholarship, but he would not hesitate to send Iverson "back to Hampton with his tail between his legs" if he failed to comply with the legendary coach, or strict honor code of Georgetown. At Georgetown, Iverson was an Arts major, his first love as a child. He is still known for caricatures that depict teammates and celebrities.
As a Hoya, Iverson won two Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Rookie of the Year award, 1995-1996 All-Tournament 1st Team, and a Gold Medal for his win at the World University Games in Japan in 1995. He was also the Hoyas All-Time leading scorer.
As his family situation worsened and financial responsibility mounted, Iverson needed to turn pro early, which meant leaving school before graduating. Iverson was the first of just two basketball players (Victor Page being the other) to leave Georgetown early for the NBA under Thompson.
After two phenomenal years at Georgetown, Allen left his coach John Thompson and announced himself eligible for the NBA draft.
After two outstanding seasons at Georgetown, Allen Iverson was the first player picked in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson quickly established himself as one of the premier pointguards in the NBA. In his debut against the Milwaukee Bucks, he scored 30 points. He also gained a reputation as fun to watch and promptly filled the Sixers arena. He was named Rookie of the Year and was a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Iverson also made headlines during his rookie year when he shook the legendary Michael Jordan with his patented crossover dribble.
Iverson led the Sixers with 23.5 points (sixth in the NBA), 7.5 assists (10th) and 2.07 steals (seventh), leading NBA rookies in each category, and breaking the NBA's rookie records for assists, steals, points, and minutes played.
Despite his outstanding play on the court, Iverson often experienced difficulty handling the media and pressure of his new celebrity status. He was criticized by players, coaches, and the press alike, who often accused Iverson of a lack of respect for great NBA players, selfishness with the ball, and failure, despite his individiual achievements, to lead Sixers to a better record. He also endured scrutiny from the league office, who didn't like his hip-hop based persona (which included cornrows, and a growing number of tattoos on his body).
In the 1998-1999 season, Iverson had his first trip to the playoffs. He started all ten playoff games and averaged 44.4 minutes per game despite being hampered by a number of nagging injuries. In the next seasons playoffs, Iverson averaged 26.2 points, 4.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.30 steals per game, with a high of 40 points in the first round opener at Charlotte on April 22. That season, he was the only player other than Shaquille O'Neal to get a NBA Most Valuable Player vote.
Iverson arguably had his best season in 2001 — he led his team to win their first ten games, he started and won All-Star MVP honors at the All-Star game, was league MVP, NBA scoring champion for the second time, NBA steals champion, and ultimately led his team to an NBA finals appearance against the Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Iverson is still the only player other than Michael Jordan to have led the league in both points and steals in the same season.
For most of the early portion of Iverson's career, his head coach with the Sixers was Larry Brown. Iverson often praised Brown, saying that he would not have achieved so much in the sport without Brown's guidance. Iverson had a love-hate relationship with Brown, however, and the two frequently clashed, most famously after the 76ers were defeated in the first round of the 2002 NBA Playoffs. Brown criticized Iverson for missing team practices and Iverson defended himself with what would become a famous and oft-quoted monologue which some observers felt indicated a lack of appreciation by Iverson for the importance of practice.
If Coach tells you that I missed practice, then that's that. I may have missed one practice this year but if somebody says he missed one practice of all the practices this year, then that's enough to get a whole lot started. I told Coach Brown that you don't have to give the people of Philadelphia a reason to think about trading me or anything like that. If you trade somebody, you trade them to make the team better...simple as that. I'm cool with that. I'm all about that. The people in Philadelphia deserve to have a winner. It's simple as that. It goes further than that ... If I can't practice, I can't practice. It is as simple as that. It ain't about that at all. It's easy to sum it up if you're just talking about practice. We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last but we're talking about practice man. How silly is that? ... Now I know that I'm supposed to lead by example and all that but I'm not shoving that aside like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I honestly do but we're talking about practice. We're talking about practice man. We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you've seen me play right, you've seen me give everything I've got, but we're talking about practice right now. ... Hey I hear you, it's funny to me too, hey it's strange to me too but we're talking about practice man, we're not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we're talking about practice ... How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?
— Allen Iverson at a press conference on May 8, 2002
He said "practice" more times than he's actually practiced.
— Larry Brown speaking to reporters the next day
Nonetheless, when Brown left the 76ers in 2003, both he and Iverson indicated that the two were on good terms and genuinely fond of one another. As evidence, when Iverson went down and didn't get up during a playoff game against Brown's Pistons, now-rival coach Larry Brown raced onto the court and was the first one at Iverson's side. Iverson later reunited with Brown when Iverson became a member and co-captain of the 2004 United States Olympic men's basketball team.
In 2005, on Stephen A. Smith's ESPN talkshow Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith, Iverson was asked to outline his problems with Brown. Iverson declared that he was privileged and honored to have had Brown as his coach, without any qualms, reservations or criticism; he described Brown as an overwhelmingly positive influence on his basketball career and in his personal life. Smith then played a clip of Brown describing "The Answer" as an ideal role-model for American children, and Iverson wept.
The team's performance at the Olympic Games, however, would ultimately prove to be a disappointment. Iverson and LeBron James were benched for a game for having arrived late to a practice session. The United States' team had a dismal start against Germany, which had failed to qualify for the Olympic competition. Iverson did succeed in keeping the game from going into overtime with a miraculous half-court shot in the closing seconds.
Despite the dramatic win, the team continued to struggle. They would ultimately claim a bronze medal, a disappointing showing by US basketball standards.
On April 18, 2006 Iverson and Chris Webber arrived late to the Sixers' fan appreciation night and home game finale. Players are expected to report 90 minutes before gametime, but both Iverson and Webber arrived around tipoff. Coach Maurice Cheeks notified the media that neither would be playing and general manager Billy King announced that Iverson and Webber would be fined. During the 2006 off-season, trade rumors had Iverson going to Denver, Atlanta, or Boston. None of the deals were completed. Iverson had made it clear that he would like to stay a Sixer.
On November 29, 2006 following a conflict at practice, Iverson stormed out of the gymnasium. That same evening, Iverson missed a corporate sponsor night at Lucky Strike Lanes in Philadelphia. All the 76ers besides Iverson attended this mandatory event. Iverson was fined an undisclosed amount by the 76ers. Iverson claimed he overslept after taking medication for pain related to having two abscessed teeth pulled but it was reported that Iverson told teammates earlier in the day he planned to blow off the event and was simply going to take the fine.
On December 8 Iverson reportedly demanded a trade from the Sixers. As a result of the demand and missing practice prior to a matchup against the Washington Wizards, Iverson was told not to play nor attend any further games. During that game, which was televised nationally on ESPN, Sixers Chairman Ed Snider confirmed the trade rumors by stating "We're going to trade him .. At a certain point, you have to come to grips with the fact that it's not working. He wants out and we're ready to accommodate him."
On December 19, the Philadelphia 76ers sent Iverson and forward Ivan McFarlin to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round picks in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Iverson is a prolific scorer who has averaged 28.1 points per game in his career, trailing all-time leader Michael Jordan in this category by only 2.0 points per game. Iverson is one of only 30 players in NBA history to score over 20,000 points in his career, and he was the 6th fastest in the history of the game to achieve this amazing feat.
Iverson's trademark crossover dribble is regarded as one of the most effective moves in the game, making him difficult for a defender to contain in one-on-one play. Iverson is also known for his ability to draw fouls, at times seeming to get the free-throw line almost at will. He is regularly one of the NBA's leaders in free throws attempted, and in free throw percentage.
Iverson has averaged 6.8 assists per game over his career. He has also averaged 4.0 rebounds per game.
On defense, Iverson is also an adept ball-thief and is known for playing the passing lanes. He regularly ranks among the league leaders in steals and averages over 2 steals per game for his entire career.
Critics point out that Iverson's career shooting percentage (.422) is unremarkable. They also frequently accuse Iverson of being a ball hog: as of March 2007, he has taken ~16,800 shots in just over 700 games, averaging over 23 per game. Detractors also note that the 76ers' all-time record with Iverson in the lineup was barely above .500 (355-342), and that in the 2006-2007 season, both the 76ers and the Nuggets have posted better win-loss records without Iverson in the lineup than with him.
Despite these criticisms, Iverson is still generally regarded as one of the best guards to ever play the game, as evidenced by Iverson's being named the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game for the past seven consecutive seasons. He was voted to the All-NBA third team in the 2005-2006 season. He also took the league and All-Star MVP and led the Sixers to the Finals in 2001.
Iverson's ability to effectively employ such a versatile combination of scoring methods — driving to the basket, drawing fouls, shooting from outside, and creating his own shot off of the dribble — all at only six feet tall, has made him one of the most unique and dominant players in NBA history.
Iverson has often been a controversial figure, dating back to his teenage years, including some troubles with the law.
This incident was profiled on the television newsmagazine 60 Minutes due to claims of racial bias in the adjudication of the case. L. Douglas Wilder, at the time Governor of Virginia, became convinced that Iverson had been treated unfairly and controversially granted Iverson clemency, releasing him from his sentence. Iverson's conviction was later overturned on appeal.
Iverson, along with his friends, was stopped by policemen for speeding late midnight and was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and for possession of marijuana. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to community service.
In 2000, Iverson recorded a rap single named 40 Bars. However, after being criticized for its controversial lyrics, he eventually was unable to release it. Going under his moniker, "Jewels", the album was alleged to have made derogatory remarks about homosexuals. After criticism from activist groups and NBA Commissioner David Stern, he agreed to change the lyrics, but ultimately never released the album.
Iverson allegedly threw his wife Tawanna out of the mansion during a fight. The following night, an enraged Iverson later went looking for his wife at his cousin's apartment. His cousin wouldn't let him in (Iverson was the one who paid the rent for the house). According to the police report, Iverson repeatedly threatened to kill his cousin Charles Jones and Jones's roommate while showing them a semi-automatic gun. Iverson was arrested and charged with 14 different counts. All charges were ultimately dropped after conflicting testimonies from witnesses.
During the latter part of the 2003-2004 season, Iverson bristled under the disciplinarian approach of the Sixers' new head coach Chris Ford. This led to a number of contentious incidents, including Iverson being suspended for missing practice, fined for failing to notify Ford that Iverson would not attend a game because he was sick, and refusing to play in game because he felt "insulted" that Ford wanted Iverson to come off the bench as he worked his way back from an injury.
On February 24, 2004, Iverson, a noted regular casino patron, was spotted at Bally's Park Place in Atlantic City urinating in a trash can in full view of staff and patrons. He was told by casino management not to return.
When the 2004 United States Olympic team gathered in Jacksonville, Florida for its first exhibition game, Allen Iverson was late. He was suspended for the game.
On December 9, 2005 after the Sixers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, Iverson paid a late-night visit to the Trump Taj Mahal. After winning a hand at a three-card-stud poker table, Iverson was overpaid $10,000 in chips by a dealer. When the dealer quickly realized the mistake and requested the chips back, Iverson refused and a heated head-turning argument between him and casino staff began. Atlantic City casino regulations reportedly state that when a casino makes a payout mistake in favor of the gambler, he or she must return the money that they did not legitimately win by playing.
In 2005, NBA commissioner David Stern banned what critics and supporters call "hip-hop culture"-related attire such as Mitchell & Ness throwback jerseys, baggy jeans, crooked baseball caps, do-rags, knee-length t-shirts, large items of jewelry, and Timberland boots. Punishment for violations would include fines and possible suspensions for repeat violations.
Iverson harshly criticized Stern's dress code, saying that it "would not change a person's character regardless of what type of clothing they wore", and that "associating hip-hop styles of dress with violent crime, drugs, or a bad image is racist." Iverson also said that the advertising of many prominent NBA sponsors, such as Nike, Reebok, Puma and Adidas were heavily influenced by hip-hop culture.
On Ashton Kutcher's MTV show Punk'd, Iverson was initially denied entry into his own 30th birthday party at the Garden of Eden Club in Los Angeles by a bouncer who told him that he couldn't enter because one of the President's daughters and the Secret Service were inside the club. Iverson then played the same prank on the Indiana Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal.
Iverson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for remarks made against referee Steve Javie following a game between the Nuggets and Iverson's former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, played January 2, 2007. During the course of the game, Iverson had picked up a second technical foul and was ejected from the game. After the game, Iverson said, "I thought I got fouled on that play, and I said I thought that he was calling the game personal, and he threw me out. His fuse is real short anyway, and I should have known that I couldn't say anything anyway. It's been something personal with me and him since I got in the league. This was just the perfect game for him to try and make me look bad."
* NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan was Iverson's college basketball teammates at Georgetown, and is considered one of Iverson's close friends.
* As a junior, Iverson mostly quarterbacked Bethel High School's football team to the state championship title and played 5 different positions to help his team get to the state championship (Quarterback, Wide Reciever, Safety, Running Back, Special Teams [Punt/Kick Returner]).
* Iverson was the first major client of New Jersey attorney-agent Leon Rose.
* His mother, Ann Iverson, is the owner of the Richmond, Virginia-based Richmond Ballerz, a team of the American Basketball Association.