Thursday, April 15, 2010

How I remember Allen Iverson

This evening I watched ESPN's "30 For 30" documentary on Allen Iverson, "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson" directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame.  The movie is superbly done, focusing on the racial divide in Iverson's hometown of Hampton, VA and the events surrounding Iverson's involvement in a 1993 brawl in a bowling alley that resulted in his spending four months in prison.  Iverson, of course, went to Georgetown University after his release and went on a successful career in the NBA.  But it's his time at Georgetown that I think about when I hear Iverson's name.

I was a freshman at Georgetown when I heard about the brawl and the subsequent trial.  At the time I didn't even know where Hampton, VA, was.  I assumed it was somewhere south of DC (which it is, on a peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay).  I didn't have an opinion of the trial, Iverson's conviction, or his release and pardon by then-Governor Douglas Wilder.  But shortly after Iverson's release we heard that Georgetown coach John Thompson was trying to get Iverson to come to Georgetown.  Even then, I thought that Iverson was just another one of Thompson's reclamation projects.  I don't think anyone I knew cared about his past or worried about how he'd affect the team. 

I didn't realize what kind of talent we had on our team until his first few games as a freshman in 1994.  He was unlike anyone I'd ever seen play basketball.  The way he threw himself into games was unreal.  He could make shots out of nothing.  I only went to one game in person during his time at Georgetown, an ugly, foul-filled game against Boston College, and I don't remember anything specific about Iverson other than his energy and incredible shots.  When the Hoyas played in the 1996 NCAA Tournament, I had high hopes that Iverson would lead us to a championship.  It didn't happen, but he took us for an unforgettable ride.

My only other encounter with Iverson happened a few months later, after Iverson announced that he would leave Georgetown two years early to enter the NBA draft.  My mother was in town for a visit and we were walking from campus to M Street.  As we crossed Prospect Street, a luxury car stopped short about ten feet from us.  I don't remember exactly but I'm fairly certain we had the right of way, though I will admit we might have been jaywalking.  I looked at the driver and it was Allen Iverson.  It was as close as I would ever get to our superstar player.  He and I made eye contact for a second.  As we walked away, I said to my mom, "You know, that was Allen Iverson who nearly ran us over just now."  We thought it was funny.  And no, this isn't the first time I've told this story.  It probably won't be the last, either.

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