Iverson showcases arrogance

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Allen Iverson didn't break any laws partying all night.

He just showed that he can act as arrogantly and audaciously as he wants and get away with it.

Iverson is scheduled to surrender to the Philadelphia police Tuesday and be charged with four felony and 10 misdemeanor counts. If convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to up to 70 years in jail.

It's a good bet that Iverson won't get even a day, that the charges won't stick, that fame and money and a good lawyer will see him through this crisis and he will be back in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform, playing ball, when preseason games begin.

In the perverse way the world works sometimes, his popularity and marketing value will probably go up.

Reebok, which gave Iverson a lifetime extension of a 10-year, $50 million endorsement deal last year, wasted no time in coming to his defense. Far from saying it was disappointed in him for his alleged actions -- throwing his wife, Tawanna, out of their home naked, then carrying a gun, forcing his way into a cousin's apartment looking for her and making threats -- Reebok blamed the police.

''It is Allen's celebrity status, not the facts, that continues to fuel these proceedings,'' Reebok said. ''We firmly believe that Allen will be vindicated and Reebok, along with his millions of fans, will still be standing by him when he is.''

Reebok rebuilt its basketball brand around Iverson's rough image. An arrest would only reinforce that image.

''It might even help sales,'' said Alan T. Brown, president of Hollywood, Fla.-based Alan T. Brown Associates, a sports marketing firm. ''Yes, it's the bad-boy image, but the bad-boy image unfortunately right now is what sells, and he's the best bad boy out there.''

Most people, if they're under investigation for the same charges Iverson faces, would be arrested, booked and taken to court to set a date for a hearing. Iverson was allowed to stay home until his attorney, Richard Sprague, returned from a European vacation to accompany him when he surrenders.

For Iverson, who has $40.5 million and three years left on a $70.8 million extension of his contract with the 76ers, that meant a weekend comfortably ensconced at his $2.4 million estate in an exclusive enclave of Philadelphia. It wasn't house arrest, it was mansion arrest.

Nobody said he had to sit home alone, contemplating his problems. But with media helicopters circling overhead, and with reporters, photographers and television crews camped outside the steel gates, some people in his situation might have chosen to play it low key. A quiet dinner with the family, perhaps, or a movie on TV.

Not Iverson. He hosted a party Saturday night until 5 a.m., with guests swimming and playing basketball in the rain. He had to show everyone that he plays the game by his own rules. Contrition is not his style.

That's the way Iverson acted during the season. If he didn't want to practice with the rest of the 76ers, he didn't. If coach Larry Brown complained about it, that was Brown's problem.

Iverson is immensely talented, to be sure, and he is gutsy on the court, shrugging off sprains and strains, bruises and broken bones, putting the game ahead of his pain. As a player, he's a terrific role model.

As a man, he still has a long way to go.

At 27, Iverson should know that what he does off the court matters. That the rules are not made only for everyone else.

Iverson's path to this point has been strewn with tough times. He grew up poor on the streets of Newport News, Va. He was just a teenager when several of his friends were murdered on those streets. Last October, one of Iverson's best friends, Rahsaan Langford, was gunned down there after an argument in a bar. Iverson took it hard. He started wearing a black armband with the letters ''RA'' and tapped it before each free throw.

It was a bleak year for Iverson. The death of his friend, a string of injuries, the first-round loss in the playoffs, the public dispute with Brown, the domestic problems with Tawanna. The pressure seemed to be building.

''You can wind the clock but so tight until it breaks,'' the Rev. Jerome Barber of Hampton, Va., told the Philadelphia Daily News. ''He's been through probably enough for two, three of us to try to bear up under. I would say he has probably experienced enough this year to have some emotional challenges.''

Barber officiated at the Iversons' wedding last August. Langford was a groomsman. A couple months later, Barber delivered the eulogy at Langford's funeral.

As hard as that must have been for Iverson to deal with, as difficult as the injuries and the disappointment of the playoffs were, he can't use them as excuses. Hard times hit everyone and the test of a man's character is in how he deals with them. Fame and wealth and a good lawyer won't always work.

Steve Wilstein is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at swilstein@ap.org



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