On June 7, 1975, Allen Ezail Iverson was born in Hampton, Virginia to a single, 15-year-old mother. He shined as an athlete in high school but had difficulty staying out of trouble, which almost cost him his entire career. After dodging a few (metaphorical) bullets, Iverson attended Georgetown University and was selected with the first overall pick of the 1996 Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Iverson would go on to play for 14 seasons while averaging an absolutely dominant 26.7 points per game. He also earned Rookie of the Year honors, notched 11 straight All-Star nods, and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2002. His other accomplishments included scoring 48 points in a 2001 playoff game, a career-high 60 points in a 2005 game, and helping Team USA win the bronze at the 2004 Summer Olympics. The only thing missing from his resume was an NBA Championship, as he was stuck on some very lackluster 76ers teams.
However, for each tale of Iverson’s accomplishments on the pro court, there’s an even crazier account from his life as a young star and a guy who took fame and slam-dunked it with style, a whole lot of flair, and just a bit too much attitude. These are the 15 craziest stories from the life of Allen Iverson.
15. Cut It Out!
In high school, in addition to being a promising young point guard, Allen Iverson also played running back, kick returner, defensive back, and safety for his school’s football teams. However, early on, he failed a grade and ended up moving into the home of his football coach, Gary “Mo” Moore. Iverson credits Moore for turning his life around after the coach found out Iverson had been skipping class and threw him on top of a car. “I wasn’t going to allow him to fail,” Moore later said.
But the insane part isn’t so much the car incident as it is the amount of classes Iverson actually cut. In a single school year, Iverson skipped a whopping 69 days. The average school year is only about 180 days, meaning Iverson missed over one-third of his classes for the year! Moore decided then and there to be young Allen’s personal manager and not allow him to let his talents go to waste. Iverson later called it the wake-up call he very much needed.
14. The Bowling Brawl
Allen Iverson’s first run-in with the law occurred at an early age, and the term “run-in” is probably a bit too light. While bowling with friends in Hampton, Virginia, a 17-year-old Iverson (then a promising young high school basketball star) was involved in an altercation between his friends and a group of older white high schoolers from neighboring Poquoson. It allegedly began when Iverson and his buddies were repeatedly getting too loud and raucous, and may have reached the tipping point when the white kids began hurling racial remarks.
Regardless of the cause, an enormous brawl broke out and Iverson and three of his friends were arrested, with Allen getting accused of hitting a woman with a chair. “For me to be in a bowling alley where everybody in the whole place know who I am and be crackin’ people upside the head with chairs and think nothin’ gonna happen? That’s crazy!” Iverson later said.
Video of the incident was grainy and inconclusive, yet Iverson was nevertheless convicted of a felony (as an adult) for “maiming by mob,” a law that ironically was originally meant to protect black people from lynchings.
13. Help Me, Tom Brokaw!
Iverson began serving his sentence at Newport News City Farm (again, a bit of irony here with the name) but his story soon caught the attention of famous journalist and news anchor Tom Brokaw. Brokaw interviewed Iverson in jail, which the former credits with helping people to see Iverson’s story in a different light, from his own perspective. After four months of incarceration, Iverson was granted conditional clemency by then-Governor of Virginia Douglas Wilder, with the requirement that he complete his education at Richard Milburn High School, a school for at-risk students.
Iverson credits Brokaw immensely for his efforts. “I got a lot of love for NBC, Tom Brokaw,” he said. “He did a lot for me, and I appreciate him and I owe him a lot for that.” In 1995, the Virginia Court of Appeals overturned the conviction for insufficient evidence. Still, Iverson had a lot of work ahead of him if he wanted to continuing pursuing a basketball career.
12. Mommy Dearest
After completing his education at Richard Milburn High School and managing to stay out of trouble, Allen Iverson was eventually visited by Georgetown University head coach John Thompson, and offered a full scholarship to join the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team. However, the recruitment was quite unconventional compared to most cases. In fact, it was basically nonexistent. “I never recruited Allen at all, [him and his family] recruited me,” Thompson later said. “I was a little reluctant in the beginning.” Surprisingly, Thompson instead credits Iverson’s mother “more than anybody” else for convincing him to take a chance on the troubled but talented young man.
Iverson owes a lot to both of these adults for his successful basketball career. “Coach Thompson saved my life,” he said. In turn, Iverson rewarded his coach by leading the Hoyas to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament in 1994-95, earning Big East Rookie of the Year and All Rookie Tournament First Team honors along the way. The following season he led them to the Elite 8 and ended his college tenure as the team’s all-time career scoring average leader, with 22.9 PPG.
11. C’mon, Ref!
All of the stories on this list deal with off-court issues involving Iverson – with the exception of this one, which involved an in-game event that spilled over into real life. While playing for the Denver Nuggets on January 2, 2007, Iverson was fined $25,000 after he criticized referee Steve Javie for what the former referred to as “something personal with me and him since I got in the league.” At first, this sounded like an exaggeration of the kind of complaint all players have, but there was actually some truth to this claim.
In his book Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA, not only did former referee Tim Donaghy support the claim that Javie had a longstanding hatred for Iverson, but he also revealed on 60 Minutes that he and two fellow refs thought the punishment was too light and decided to “teach him a lesson.” Prior to a January 6, 2007 Nuggets game, Donaghy and two other referees agreed not to give Iverson any favorable calls, and the decision resulted in the player not getting a call when he was obviously fouled by Utah’s Mehmet Okur, among other slights. Players claim unfavorable treatment by refs all the time, but this is one instance where it was shockingly confirmed.
10. No-Hit Wonder
During the 2000 offseason, Allen Iverson, for some inexplicable reason, decided to record a rap single called “40 Bars” under the moniker “Jewelz.” The song was immediately condemned by Sixers president Pat Croce, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and even director Spike Lee. The Association for Nonviolence condemned it for its glorification of guns and use of homophobic slurs. (One of the offending lyrics stated, “Come to me with those f—-t tendencies and you’ll be sleeping where the maggots be.” Inspired.)
Iverson agreed to edit the song for a planned album, called Misunderstood, but it was later nixed altogether. “Looking back on it, it’s embarrassing when I think about all the kids that could’ve ended up hearing all the things that I was saying and portraying someone that, obviously, I’m not,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “Because it was gangster rap and I’m not a gangster.” We’re fairly certain that statement is the only sane part of the entire ordeal.
9. The Running Man
Although Allen Iverson’s basketball dominance is undeniable, people sometimes forget just how good of an overall athlete he was. Bill Simmons once referred to him as “one of the all-time athletic superfreaks,” and a lot of his ability was natural. Or, more accurately, supernatural. Legend has it that Iverson was able to run a mile in just over four minutes during the 2004 Olympics – with his court clothes on. It may seem unbelievable, but Pat Croce lent some credibility to the claim. “I couldn’t force him to do things in the offseason. He played street ball, he’d eat his fried chicken,” Croce recalled. “Then he’d come to the first day of camp and run a five-minute mile … He’s a freak of nature.” Even at an early age, the guy owned everybody.
On his aforementioned high school football team, as a junior, Iverson passed for 14 touchdowns, rushed for 15, and racked up five more on special teams while leading the team to a state championship. As a safety, he once picked off seven throws in a single game. These aren’t the stats of a star, they’re the stats of a god among mere mortals.
8. When You Gotta Go…
One year after getting selected first overall in the 1996 NBA Draft, Allen Iverson was stopped for speeding and arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and possessing marijuana. Not a good start to the career of a budding superstar, but Iverson managed to stay out of trouble (for the most part) for the next seven years. That’s when things started to get a bit hairy. On February 24, 2004, the young point guard was asked by security to leave Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel and Casino in New Jersey. What was his offense: Counting cards? Cleaning out the house? No, the casino staff instead caught Iverson urinating in a trash can. And not just any trash can, but one in the middle of the casino floor – an action that shocked nearby onlookers. This would not be the last of Iverson’s unfortunate incidents, however. In fact, it wouldn’t even be the last of Iverson’s unfortunate incidents in casinos.
7. Let the Chips Fall
On December 9, 2005, fresh off a victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, Allen Iverson paid a visit to the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. His luck continued there, as not only did he win big at three-card stud poker, but he was overpaid $10,000 in chips by a dealer. The worker quickly realized their mistake, but Iverson refused to give the money back (which was a violation of city law), and he engaged in a heated argument with the casino staff – once again on the main floor in front of the other casino-goers. However, this incident didn’t result in a ban, and Iverson eventually returned the unearned loot. Shockingly, he was actually given a gaming voucher in the amount of $10,000 for his troubles. It would be over three years before Iverson had another incident in a casino (that we know of, at least), but he made sure to make up for the lost time.
6. Detroit Fight City
It didn’t take long after Allen Iverson’s trade from the Nuggets to the Pistons for him to stir up trouble once again…and you’ll never guess the location. A.I. saw himself get banned from not one, but two Detroit casinos in 2009. The star point guard was a regular at both the MGM and Greektown casinos prior to the restriction, which was allegedly due to “his boorish behavior” and the fact that he was verbally abusive and a sore loser who would curse and throw his cards or chips when unhappy – despite numerous warnings. The Detroit News reported that Iverson “is often loud and disruptive, according to witnesses, rude to dealers, other players, and the waitstaff.” The Greektown ban was also due to disturbance and alleged assault that involved one of Iverson’s security guards, although those charges were later dropped. A.I. was apparently also involved in a disturbance outside of a Minneapolis casino the same year.
5. Still Mama’s Boy
One of the most peculiar stories about Allen Iverson came from a dealer who was working Christmas Eve at one of the Atlantic City casinos A.I. frequented. He had a table with his family (his Uncle George, two cousins, and his mother) and in addition to his verbally-abusive, non-tipping nature that scared servers away, Iverson also showcased the odd relationship he had with his mother. As Iverson got drunker and drunker, he apparently seemed to regress to a childlike state, and allegedly had the following exchange with his mother:
“How on earth did you get so lucky to have given birth to a man such as me?”
“I am blessed.”
“You are blessed.”
This was followed by Allen lashing out at onlookers, berating the pit boss, throwing around racial accusations, and then passing out at the table. Curiously, once Iverson dozed off, his family began tipping for the first time all night. It’s worth noting here that Ana Iverson was a quirky lady herself. After all, this is the woman who claims to not have had sex the night A.I. was conceived, named her second child Mister Allen Iverson, and supposedly lost her SUV in an airport parking lot and simply bought another one.
4. In Here, It’s Always Friday
Although Allen Iverson disputes former teammate Matt Barnes’ claims that he regularly dropped $30,000-40,000 per night at strip clubs, there’s one place where A.I. has no problem admitting he dumped some dough: T.G.I. Fridays. So much dough that he actually claims the bulk of the responsibility for the restaurant’s success. The star first fell for the joint while living down the street from a location in Philadelphia, and he gave a gem of an explanation: “It’s a down-to-Earth restaurant. I like doing things like that. Unless I’m, like, taking my girl out. I’ll take her to the real expensive, you know, exotic restaurants. Other than that, when I’m hanging with my friends, we just like to go to a spot where we can chill out. And we like the food there, so it’s always been love at Fridays … By me going there, it ended up being the no. 4 Fridays in the country. So, I did a lot for them too.” Iverson’s go-to order? The Philly cheese wrap, of course.
3. Marathon Man
If you followed Allen Iverson’s career, you likely remember his performance in the 2001 NBA All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.: 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, and an MVP award. The question, however, is whether or not A.I. actually remembers it. As legend has it, Iverson partied for an unfathomable 72 hours straight prior to the game. Think about that for a second. Basketball players need to be in top physical condition at all times in order to compete at the highest level, and this includes something like, oh, maybe getting a little bit of sleep sometime in the three days prior to a game. Not Iverson though. The guy is an unstoppable force who can pop bottles and entertain endless amounts of ladies for half of a week and then go to the NBA All-Star Game with the best of the best and still nab the MVP nod. Insane.
2. The Pick-Up Artist
Sticking with the topic of entertaining ladies, Allen Iverson apparently had quite the technique for picking up eligible bachelorettes. While Michael Jordan had a guy that would distribute business cards to women he wanted to court, A.I. had a team of 10 at each game: four in the nosebleed section, four in the lower, and two courtside. According to DJ/drummer/musician Questlove, a Sixers season ticket holder, “They work the entire stadium like a lion seeking whom they may devour,” he explained “Their game is tight son….they roll real quick with business cards….after party with AI…and if they have a date, it’s all good. Once dropped off to the crib you can dial the number and they will car service you to the location.”
Quest claimed if he wasn’t such good friends with Iverson – and if he didn’t take the precaution to never leave his dates alone for more than a couple minutes – he would have lost many ladies to the unstoppable love machine that is A.I.
1. Naked and Afraid
In the end, the most insane thing about Allen Iverson might be just how far he’s fallen since his playing days. Iverson has denied rumors that he’s blown his fortune, saying in 2015, “That’s a myth. That’s a rumor… The fact that I’m struggling in any part of my life.” However, some facts are undeniable. For instance, shortly after his last NBA game in February 2010, Tawanna, Iverson’s wife at the time, separated from him and filed for divorce, seeking custody of their five children, as well as child support and alimony payments.
On July 3 of the same year, Allen and Tawanna allegedly got into a two-day-long argument that resulted in Iverson throwing his wife out on the street, naked. Two days later, he and his Uncle Greg went looking for her, and reportedly barged into the apartment of his cousin while brandishing a gun, which resulted in the filing of 14 misdemeanor and felony charges, including aggravated and simple assault, reckless endangerment of other people, conspiracy, possession of an instrument of crime, weapons violations, burglary, and criminal trespassing. An insane epilogue to one of the most insanely skilled players to ever set foot on an NBA court.
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