Memphis takes a turn trying to understand Allen Iverson

By Henry Abbott

There's a good article in today's Memphis Commercial Appeal. It's about Allen Iverson. How he's misunderstood. How this coach might make the difference. How in different circumstances he might have a different reputation.

I absolutely understand that point of view, having written something like it myself when he was traded to the Nuggets.

But you know what? The more I think about Allen Iverson, the more I think it's possible to understand him. There are videos and books (an insightful quote from one is at the link in the last paragraph).

At the peak of Iverson's career, the 2000-2001 season when he won the MVP award and led a so-so Sixers team to the NBA Finals, I was writing for HOOP and going to nearly every Sixer home game. Like a lot of people at that time, I was fascinated by Allen Iverson. The summer before I had traveled to his hometown of Hampton, Virginia to see his celebrity softball game and fundraiser. I had talked to his mom, to his confidant Gary Moore, and to the player himself. That something great resided in him was so blatantly obvious. That at other times he was so listless was also clear.

As the playoffs started, on a Tuesday in April, I settled into my press row seat to watch those Sixers (who knew they were on their way to the Finals?) try to bounce back after losing the first game of their mighty run, at home, to the Pacers. I had brought along with me a magazine -- the newest Sports Illustrated.

The cover story was about Allen Iverson. There had been a zillion such magazine stories like that. I was working on one myself. But this one was something special. I started reading it as the players were warming up. But it's a long article. I put it down for the national anthem. I meant to leave it in my bag for the actual game, but I couldn't look away. So I sat there, in about the third row on the baseline, with my nose buried in a magazine, not watching the Sixers kick off one of the greatest runs in playoff history by absolutely spanking the Pacers that night.

Gary Smith's article is that good, and you can read it now online. If, like many lovers of basketball, you're in the business of wanting to understand Allen Iverson better, that's the place to start.