Spiraling Iverson? This isn't time for piling on
It's not often that a Twitter message weeps and bleeds but Allen Iverson's did. Only Iverson could turn Tweets into compelling reading. "To my fans: You all know that my life isn't perfect," Iverson wrote. "I am going through some very tough times right now, like I am sure that we all do from time to time. However, I will stand tall like always with 'rhino' thick skin.
"Even though I have become used to hearing people say things about me that aren't true, it still hurts. I encourage you to continue your ongoing support and I want you to trust that this is another obstacle in my life that, with God's help I will overcome. God Bless You All."
Iverson was responding to a Philadelphia Inquirer report that stated he "will either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away." I believe the story, and Iverson's Tweets weren't exactly the strongest of denials. He's refuting something but what that something is isn't truly clear. Since then, silence.
Iverson's Twitter responses were like the man himself: direct, in-your-face, explicit, defiant and unapologetic.
If the reports are to be believed, Iverson's trifurcate of divorce, alleged drinking and gambling are melding to create one of the more ugly endings for a great sports star.
Iverson's tale is cautionary, but the main emotion it invokes is sadness. I feel desperately sorry for him. I know these sentiments aren't allowed in our caustic, divisive and cynical sports universe, but if there were ever a time to feel them this is it.
Iverson's youthful and sinewy powers combined with that superhero scrappiness were once primary trademarks. Now, something else is happening with Iverson. A different and more unfortunate element of his Hall of Fame career is being constructed.
This is a story that will not end well. Please let me be wrong. But I'm probably not. Some of you won't feel an iota of sympathy. Some will say typical dumb athlete. Screw Iverson. That's fine. That's fair. Pardon me if I feel a pang of sympathy for a moment.
Just a moment.
Iverson hasn't been perfect. His obnoxious practice rant was an indicator of his immaturity, but he was still a blue collar hero. The only guard in NBA history tougher than Iverson was Isiah Thomas.
Iverson also never tried to satisfy the masses. He embraced his roots and Iverson had more guts off the court than Michael Jordan ever did or LeBron James ever will because Iverson didn't change his physical appearance or manner to please corporate America. Don't like his cornrows? Too bad.
Unlike other athletes whose lives have fallen apart before our eyes, Iverson isn't a bad guy. I've met him many times and he's no creep. Iverson's a child who never grew up because he never had to. Iverson's athletic abilities armored him like a bullet proof vest and teams overlooked his frailties because of his production on the court.
The reason Iverson's story has reached this alleged desperate point is because Iverson's personal life might have reached its lowest. His wife, Tawana, filed for divorce earlier this month. The team with whom he built his reputation, the 76ers, recently announced he wasn't coming back to the team. Iverson's daughter is also ill.
His wife is gone, his child is sick and for the first time in decades he's without his first love, which is the sport of basketball.
The Inquirer reported that Iverson has been banned from casinos in Atlantic City and Detroit. (In 2009 the Detroit News reported that Iverson was banned from two Detroit-area casinos. The casinos later announced the story was false. The newspaper stood by its story. I tend to believe the paper.) If news of the recent ban is accurate, that says a great deal about what's happening with Iverson. Casinos are usually so desperate to make money they only ban serial killers and deadbeats, and I'm certain Iverson isn't a serial killer.
I'm not certain how this will end. I hope it ends well. For now, it's just terribly sad.