I don’t know of any superstar basketball player in recent years that has been under more scrutiny than Allen Iverson. From the way he dresses, to the way he wears his hair, even his style of play. I think it all started on that fateful day in the bowling alley.

After his team won a state championship, they all decided to celebrate at a local bowling alley. There they got into an altercation with some white men who made a racist comment. A major brawl ensued and Allen Iverson was arrested. It was perceived that he was heading down the wrong path and Georgetown coach John Thompson gave him a shot to play again. So is this how you get street credibility? Standing up to someone who talks down to you and disrespects you? If that’s the case I’ll take it. Allen Iverson is from my generation. So back in ’92 he was a young man just like I was. If you are a 70’s baby born in the hood to parents who have some sense of black pride, what would you do if some white person said something disrespectful to you? There’s only one Martin Luther King. I think his reaction was the norm for any young brother.

So Allen Iverson is thugged out? Because when he came into the league he was a non conformist? He’d rather represent the struggles of the hood by wearing cornrows and baggy clothing instead of cropping his hair and wearing a suit?

Let me explain the difference between someone who’s a thug, and someone who reps his hood. A thug doesn’t care about anything or anybody. He’s capable of hurting anyone without remorse, will steal without remorse, and even kill without remorse. Allen Iverson is from Newport News, Virginia. I’m sure he knows some thugs. The difference is A.I. embodies the mentality, the hardship and struggles of the hood. He’s no thug but he’s tough. He has heart. He’s a warrior. That’s the difference. The antithesis of a thug. Thug and Gangster are words used too loosely. If you’re trying to explain a mentality, try warrior. That he is.

Thugs do not have time to play sports. Allen played two. Coming up he was a football and basketball phenom and evolved into one of the great scorers in NBA history. His stats are incredible coming from someone who’s barely 6 feet tall and 160 pounds on a good day. He even changed the image of the NBA for a good portion of the last decade making it cool to wear cornrows and baggy clothes. Other players that you wouldn’t normally see wearing cornrows were. Even Kobe grew an afro. His crossover moves were often mimicked on the streets and in the league. It was the changing of the guard (Pardon the pun).

No one should fault A.I. for being himself. If everyone else wasn’t such copycats David Stern wouldn’t have had to enforce a dress code. Initially, he was scorned upon by other established players. The most outspoken was Charles Barkley. Ironic, when Charles was respected and loved for his non conformist attitude, his realness and his fuck what the world thinks mentality. The two has since reconciled so I digress.

The arrests, the charges, the indictments. I’m well aware of them. But let me ask you; you’re a 19 year old kid from the hood with an amazing talent that took you to the highest level of your profession. Add to that the fame and the fortune. Are you really mature enough to handle all of that? No disrespect to Lebron James. He seems like the rarity, but we don’t know how he is privately. He’s very media savvy. Unfortunately Allen had to grow up in front of everyone. His mistakes were exposed. He seems to have overcome that very well. Warrior. Could you handle your mistakes being exposed while you are in your growth process?

I’ll admit that I wasn’t cool with how he handled his Detroit Piston and Memphis situation with regards to not willing to come off the bench or defer to other scorers. But I would suspect that that comes from an attitude of never quitting, never backing down, still feeling like an underdog with something to prove. I don’t know the man’s mind. However I can relate to the fact that he’s a man that goes through things just like me. If it’s not marital problems it’s child sickness.

I hope everything turns out okay with his marriage and with his daughter. For 11 years the 76ers thought he was the Answer. It didn’t pan out that way. He as returned home to the Sixers but this time he needs to search for his own answers.


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