The photo was taken by NBA photographer Jesse D. Garrabrant, and the NBA didn't deny what occurred.
"We do have a rule where you can't wear jewelry," Brian McIntyre, the league's senior vice president of sports communication, told the Chicago Sun-Times in Sunday's editions.
However, that rule is for games only, not photo shoots.
"It shouldn't have happened," McIntyre said. "There's no airbrushing of things. The decision was not the right one. It was the only time. Now we're running him in his full glory. We're promoting him."
The Sixers were promoting Iverson before all of this occurred.
They say they have never airbrushed photographs of their players, especially Iverson, their franchise player. He is on their publications. He is in all of their marketing materials. His tattoos are always visible. As far as they are concerned, that's the way things will stay.
"We don't airbrush photos," said Dave Coskey, the Sixers' senior vice president of marketing and operations. "How could any organization that has Pat Croce as president ever airbrush someone's tattoos? He'd kill us."
After last night's 103-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, it sounded as if Iverson wouldn't have minded throwing a few jabs in the NBA's direction. Clearly, he sees it as the league's way of criticizing who he is, what he's about, and how he doesn't fit the image they want to portray. He seemed offended.
"I just wish the NBA wouldn't use me [as an example]," Iverson said. "They could have used somebody else if they didn't want to accept me as a whole. This is who I am. It kind of hurts, because I've got my mother's name on my body, my grandmother's name, my kids, my fiancee. That means something to me. Airbrushing them, that's like a slap in my face.
"Use somebody else who doesn't have tattoos. I wouldn't suggest them taking any tattoos off of somebody else. . . . There are guys in this league who don't have tattoos. But [my tattoos] mean something to me."
The Sixers announced yesterday that they would offer free temporary tattoos to all fans who attend the playoff block party before tomorrow's Game 3 at the First Union Center. All fans at the game also will receive a free temporary Sixers tattoo.
Stephen A. Smith's e-mail address is email@example.com