Bill Lyon: Iverson on the rocks

Allen Iverson's financial prospects seem to be spiraling downward.
Allen Iverson's financial prospects seem to be spiraling downward. (PATRICK SCHNEIDER / Charlotte Observer)
Posted: February 12, 2012

He always did have a craving for ice and rarely hesitated to indulge it.

That ice is melting now. So diamonds, it turns out, really are not forever.

A Georgia judge has ordered Allen Ezail Iverson to pay a jeweler about $860,000. But apparently he can't, so his bank account has been commandeered, and his earnings, whatever of them may be left, are to be garnisheed.

The King of Bling, it would seem, is about to become the Prince of Pawn.

The man who is the best small scorer in the history of the NBA, who lit up Philadelphia nights with his pyrotechnic play, is said to have worked his way through the better part of - big inhale here - $150 million.

He's 36 years old.

According to the website basketball-reference.com, his income from his rookie year with the 76ers to date is - another big inhale - $154,494,445.

A man has got to really do some serious shopping to blow through a buck-fifty mil. You'd think.

Worse, it looks as if he has run out of potential employers. No one is interested in the services of the man who once dazzled his sport with his freaky speed and captivated the city with his grit and fearlessness.

Even worse, how galling it must be to see his old team with a new coach turning the city back on, and doing so by playing exactly the opposite of A.I. ball, sharing the ball, getting everyone involved, giving everyone a touch.

In 1996, Allen Iverson arrived in Philadelphia, which is precisely what Philadelphia wanted.

"Everywhere I went before the draft," Pat Croce said, "people were yelling at me, 'Iverson, Pat, take Iverson.' "

He did as requested, and that skinny little assassin in baggy pantaloons proceeded to win us over. He was made for Philly. This was his explanation for how he played: "Well, basically I just throw my heart out on the floor."

Problem was, it was A.I. and "who that?" Almost every night, single-handedly, he would win or lose a game. That's not the way basketball is intended to be played, even if Larry Brown said it was so, too, the right way. Forty points are impressive. Taking 30 shots to get them is not.

The current 76ers routinely have five players in double figures. They play manic defense. They switch. They set screens. They are the anti-A.I.

The current A.I. is struggling with life, still puzzling out how to get by without the ball. His family is shattered and scattered, a churning, domestic whirlpool.

He went, humiliatingly, from Philadelphia to Denver to Detroit to Memphis to Turkey to purgatory, and always there trailed after him, like a kite's tail, the baggage: the arguments with coaches and rap albums and tattoos and braids, the domestic turmoil and those rants against practicing.

"He redefined high maintenance," Croce said.

He was hardly the poster child for working on conditioning. He was always half a step ahead, and they warned him the day would come when the half step would go away, never to return. They should have saved their breath; they were whistling into the wind. And now, now that bill has come due.

Croce, calling him by his nickname, said: "Bubba Chuck is who he is, and he will not change."

And he wouldn't, even if he could.

Because he had the Posse to support, the ones whose loyalty was guaranteed.

Their numbers varied day to day, week to week, most of them from the old neighborhood in Virginia. There might be as many as 50 for tickets to a home game. There was a hair stylist who traveled, did his corn rows two to three times a week.

Moderation was not in vogue.

There were excursions to see the Ice Man, whose handiwork included a platinum pendant made in the shape of a '3' as a tribute to A.I.'s jersey number, with 63 diamonds embedded on it. You could land airplanes on it. It was worn on a gold chain, by A.I.'s mother, Ann.

Told that she was "a real trip," Ann Iverson said: "Honey, I'm the whole package."

She was the buffer. Her word was law for the Posse. She could intuit trouble, of which there always seemed to be too much.

A.I. said: "They made me." He meant they had protected him from all of the casual violence, especially in the early days, allowing him to get where he was. Literally, they kept him alive.

And he owed them.

One night, during the playoffs, in a hotel suite darker than a coal mine at midnight, you saw the depth of his debt: There were bodies everywhere in that suite, all the furniture occupied, the floor, too, the snoring rivaling a 747 takeoff. It was the Posse and assorted hangers-on and remoras, and this thought struck you:

It may take a village to raise a child, but in A.I.'s case it has been the other way around.

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