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The Answer Still Has Tests
Urban Sports Network
June, 2001

Urban Sports Network - Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson - now playing against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals - has gone from being a tattoo-wearing basketball menace to becoming a family man who carries his children with him to every press conference and makes sure that he thanks God, his family, his teammates, and his head coach Larry Brown after every win.

When you look at Iverson now it is hard to imagine that he once was sentenced to jail for five years for throwing a chair at a girl in a fight, or that he put out a rap single in fall 2000 which depicted women as objects and made fun of homosexuals. With each jump shot or fantastic move to the basket Iverson's image problems fade away faster than his sweet jump shot. It's no coincidence that the transformation of Allen Iverson is only coming now that he is on top of the basketball world. As an African-American trying to live a positive life after struggling in the past, the real test will come when the lights go down on the 2001 NBA season.

Why do so many people have an opinion about The Answer?

"Because they don't understand me," Iverson told Urban Sports Network (USN) during the 2000-2001 season. "They look at my natty hair and they look at the way I dress and some of the things I've been through in my life, but I've just made mistakes and I'm human like everybody else. Everyone focuses on it a lot more when it's somebody of our magnitude. So I just feel like I am. People think I'm some bad a guy when I'm not, when they need to just try to understand me and get to know me before they judge me. It's tough dealing with it, but its something that I know I have to deal with and I'm used to trying to deal with it."

Colored Past
One reason that many judge people judge Iverson is based on the fact that he was sentenced to jail for five years in 1993 after he and a group of friends got in a fight with people at a bowling alley. Iverson was found guilty of throwing a chair at a girl and served four months in jail before Governor Doug Wilder, Virginia's first black Governor, granted his release. Colleges quickly swarmed over Iverson -- a legendary high school basketball and football player-- and he landed at Georgetown University (GU) under African-American head coach John Thompson.

There was no doubt that Iverson had the skill to make it to the NBA: after his sophomore season, he entered the draft and was selected #1 overall by the Sixers. While in the league, Iverson continued to amaze with his skill, but his constant trouble with Philly head coach Larry Brown made his first couple of years a drama that made him seem doomed from the start. Iverson and Brown fought so much that 76ers president and minority owner Pat Croce and Brown had made a deal to trade Iverson before the 2000?2001 season, but the deal fell threw when Philly center Matt Gieger refused to waive a no-trade clause. Iverson called Croce and said he wanted to stay.

"Oh yeah," Croce told USN, "we were ready to trade him. But the deal fell through and we are happy that it did and we kept Allen. His first couple of years in the NBA were tough, but he has changed."

Once the trade fell through, Iverson promised to improve his game and attitude, but when his rap single came out Iverson was again in the spotlight. Iverson's lyrics were abusive towards women and homosexuals, and groups across the fruited plain protested its release. NBA commissioner David Stern eventually stepped in and forced Iverson to change the lyrics. Iverson obliged and got started on the 2000-2001 season.

A New Answer
As the season progressed, Iverson gradually shed the image of gangster hoops star and took on the role of family man and team player. Iverson got married to the mother of his two young boys. He improved his game and got his teammates more involved and stopped showing up late for practice. NBA commissioner David Stern had no trouble handing Iverson the 2001 Most Valuable Players (MVP) trophy at the 2001 All-Star and another MVP for the regular season.

The 2000-2001 season was truly a turnaround for Iverson, but now that the Lakers are likely to end the fairy tale in the NBA Finals. Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant will certainly give Philly trouble as Tinseltown had won 11 straight playoff games: Los Angeles had not lost a game of any kind since April 1, 2001. If Iverson and Philly lose they have to start from scratch and fight there way back to the finals. There is no guarantee Iverson will get back there and his team will continue to have success.

But one thing Iverson can control though is his own life on and off the court. His head coach, his family, his teammates, his fans, and his God are all rooting for him.

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