Stephen A. Smith: Iverson needs more than a prayer

With his career and marriage in tatters, and no dependable person to turn to, Allen Iverson appears headed for disaster.
With his career and marriage in tatters, and no dependable person to turn to, Allen Iverson appears headed for disaster.
Posted: March 07, 2010

His closest confidant asked the basketball world to pray for Allen Iverson, as if no one has all these years while seeing this train wreck coming.

He acted as if the former 76ers star hadn't needed a significant dose of prayer, luck, and divine intervention until now.

And as the rest of us are forced to bear witness to a disintegration, the rapid decline of a career clearly lacking nurturing, the time has arrived for Iverson's inner circle to stand up and be counted, to provide some semblance of tough love - by any means necessary.

Unless those people are willing to write his epitaph instead.

Just listening to Gary Moore, Iverson's business manager and the person he trusts most, they may be doing so very soon.

Allen Iverson is in trouble, folks, deep trouble. The combination of alcohol and gambling - and a once-promising career in tatters because of the first two - won't culminate in anything short of disaster if help does not arrive in short order.

If numerous NBA sources are telling the truth - and there's no reason to believe they'd do otherwise in a situation of this magnitude - Iverson will either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away.

Moore, ever the protector, would never admit as much, of course. But that's part of the problem, isn't it?

Iverson's wife, Tawanna, having hired some high-powered Atlanta attorney and filed for a divorce last week, does not help matters. Nor does it help that she's already separated from her husband, with custody of their five kids and seeking both alimony and child support.

When you consider Iverson's well-known penchant for alcohol and his banishment from casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City, if disgust and sadness don't come to mind, at least one question does:

Where is Pat Croce when you need him? Or Iverson's coach at Georgetown, John Thompson?

Where is the person with the ideal combination of compassion and toughness who would shelter Iverson at the same time he's holding his feet to the flames? Someone whose vested interest is in Iverson's well-being, someone who doesn't need his money or cachet?

In other words, someone he does not have in his camp right now. Or someone who has an impact, and needs to utilize it.

"I think there's one guy, and his name is John Thompson," said former Temple basketball coach John Chaney, noted for saving souls as much as winning basketball games throughout his illustrious career. "John is the one guy who'll have a chance of slowing this train wreck down, who could wrap his arms around Iverson and have an impact, because clearly it has not been done. But there's still this one question: Will [Iverson] listen?

"See, too many of our athletes give lip service when someone is trying to help them. And as soon as you leave them, they find themselves dealing with self-preservation and denial. It's an athlete's biggest problem to overcome.

"When you were young and vital, there were a lot of hit songs on that side of the record," Chaney said. "With Iverson, there are no more hit songs on that side of the record. You've got to accept the fact that you've danced and boogied. Now that they've flipped it over and ain't nobody dancing anymore, it's over!

"The ball is deflated. So now you have to find another life for yourself."

Iverson's NBA life may be over, but he and the folks he keeps close to him don't seem to realize it.

Take the more than $200 million he has earned in his career, subtract Uncle Sam's take, alimony, child support for five kids, and no millions forthcoming, then ask yourself what the 6-foot guard has left.

With his lifestyle, his mistakes, his lack of preparation for a life beyond the glory.

Talk to anyone remotely associated with Iverson and they can't deny that he is ill-prepared for a post-basketball career. His cohorts still look to him as that mercurial box-office star who won four scoring titles and a league MVP award, not as someone who simply dreams about those days right now.

The one advantage Iverson acknowledged having all of these years was a wife about whom he publicly said, "I'd die for her. . . . I'd die without her." Now, she essentially has said, "Go right ahead."

No wonder Moore said, "Pray."

This is Iverson we're talking about. What else is there to do? Especially if he is forced to stand alone?


Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@phillynews.com.

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