Allen Iverson overcame it all to become one of the greatest.
Allen Iverson overcame it all to become one of the greatest.

A Career Overturned: The Wild Story of Allen Iverson

Nathan Baugh, Matt Trombley
Articles

A 5’11” point guard became the most feared scorer in the NBA. But his sports career — and life — was almost ruined in high school. This is the wild story of Allen Iverson.

Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, Iverson excelled in sports. In high school, he was named:

  • AP High School Player of the Year in basketball
  • AP High School Player of the Year in football

Allen Iverson won state titles in both sports. But life was not easy.

Life was not always easy for Iverson.
Life was not always easy for Iverson.

Iverson’s father left his mother, Ann Iverson, before he was born. Ann was 15 at the time. A man named Gary Moore became a father-figure to Iverson and one of the most influential people in his life. In high school, Iverson experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows.

At 17, Allen Iverson was tried and convicted as an adult of ‘maiming by mob’ for a fight at a local bowling alley. This resulted in 3 felony counts and a 15-year sentence.

Iverson was tried and convicted for a fight at age 17.
Iverson was tried and convicted for a fight at age 17.

Iverson, with Moore’s help, drafted a letter to Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder - a last ditch attempt at leniency after a biased trial. Wilder granted Iverson clemency after serving a 4 month sentence. But the damage to Iverson’s sports career was done.

Iverson grew up wanting to play football for Notre Dame. Before the jail time, he was a shoo-in for a scholarship. But the Irish never offered. In basketball, Duke and Kentucky stopped recruiting him.

Then Georgetown and John Thompson offered Iverson a scholarship. In 1995, while Iverson was at Georgetown, the felony convictions were overturned. There was zero evidence against him. Coach Thompson believed in Iverson when few would.

John Thompson believed when few others would.
John Thompson believed when few others would.

Iverson became a superstar in his two years at Georgetown:

  • 23 points and 5 assists per game
  • 2x Big East Defensive Player of the Year
  • 1x All-American

In 1996, he went #1 overall in the NBA draft to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Iverson quickly established himself as one of the NBA’s best:

  • 1997 Rookie of the Year
  • 11x All-Star
  • 1x MVP

He won 4 scoring titles in the same generation as Vince Carter, Shaq, and Kobe.

Iverson won scoring titles against greats like Kobe Bryant.
Iverson won scoring titles against greats like Kobe Bryant.

But Iverson’s spending habits troubled Gary Moore, who had become his manager and advisor. In 2001, Moore designed Iverson's Reebok deal — including a $32 million payout when Iverson turns 55 and an $800,000 annual payment for life. “I didn't want him to retire broke,” Moore said.

Off the court, Iverson became a cultural icon. “I was the first one to do all that stuff — tattoos, cornrows, headbands, hip-hop. I never meant to start any trends. I got my butt kicked, but if that meant the guys who came after me could be themselves, then it was worth it.”

AI was a trend setter.
Allen Iverson was a trend setter.

Iverson retired in 2013, being inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame just 3 years later. Other players on Iverson’s influence:

  • “Pound-for-pound, the greatest player ever.” — LeBron James
  • “I wear number 3, the way that I play… because of Allen Iverson.” — Chris Paul

When John Thompson passed in 2020, Iverson said: “Thanks for saving my life Coach. I’m going to miss you, but I’m sure that you are looking down on us with a big smile.” Coach Thompson was Iverson’s presenter for his Hall of Fame ceremony.

A special bond between Iverson and Thompson.
A special bond between Iverson and Thompson.

In closing, here’s my favorite quote on Allen Iverson:

“We’re all fortunate Allen Iverson isn’t 6’5.” — Kobe Bryant

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