Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Trial Of Allen Iverson

The story begins with Allen as a young boy and touches on the background of his early years. It states that at 8-9 years of age he cared for his 4 year old little sister, when his mother was not around. His mother Ann was 15 years old when she gave birth to him. There was no father figure. She never saw one of his basketball games until he was in high school. She didn’t know he was that good. He also was a skinny little football player. He was the quarterback and led Bethel High School to the state championship for football and basketball in his junior year. After winning the state championship he was asked how he felt and he said the basketball championship was next. He missed 65 days of school but still played sports. There were no consequences for his truancy. It was suggested in the film he was caring for his younger sister.

That same year, he was at the Circle Lanes bowling alley with friends when he had a run in with white Steve Forest, who recently had done time for cocaine possession it is noted in the film, and allegedly called Allen the “n” word and a confrontation ensued that quickly turned into an all out brawl. Iverson along with three other black youths were later charged and convicted of felony charges under a “maiming by mob” stature created to prosecute lynch mobs. Not one of the white youths involved were ever bought to justice. Allen was accused of hitting a white girl in the group over the head with a chair and was charged as an adult by a known for his toughness white judge, who it was rumored that Iverson had been dating his granddaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 10 years suspension and the hope of getting out in 10 months for good behavior. To me the sentencing was the most compelling part of the documentary. It was actual footage of the trial and to watch the lump in his throat as he heard those words was cuffed and taken away was riveting. It is believed that Iverson got a stiffer sentence because of his notoriety in sports and typically an incident like that would go relatively unnoticed had he not been there. The situation and imposed harsh sentence caused tension and a division among racial lines. Protests among community activists who formed a support group called S W I S representing the last names of the young men involved came forth to support Iverson.

It could be said that he did receive special treatment because of his noted athleticism. He spent his incarceration at the Newport News City Farm correctional facility a less confined institution in Newport News, VA while the others were sent to the city jail. He was granted clemency four months later by Douglas Wilder a black Virginia Governor The other three young men did not receive this favor immediately, it was two weeks later. The VA Court of Appeals later overturned Iverson’s conviction in 1995 due to insufficient evidence.

It was not clear to me in the film why but he was not permitted to go back to Bethel High School to graduate. A white woman from the same side of town where the youths that had the altercation with Allen, tutored him while he was in this transition and helped him earn his high school diploma. There is also footage of the family and friends gathering when he graciously accepted his diploma as valedictorian. He was the only student. There were jokes made of the humorous excuses he gave for not doing some of the work. He hasn’t changed. He sent a huge bouquet of flowers to this woman’s funeral.

He was quoted in the documentary, Iverson said, “I’m not saying I did what they said, but…I deserved exactly where I was at”. He added, “I went through what I went through because God said go through it and I overcame it.”

Practice, he didn’t need the practice he was a natural born talent, he had attitude on the bench as a young boy, cursing his coach and complaining about calls, he never learned discipline within himself, never grew up with any, so never acquired the tools.

No one knows exactly what happened or what drives Allen Iverson. At the end of his career and at the end of the day “Allen Iverson has to look in the mirror” as quoted by one of the black volunteers that agreed to talk with the director of the film. Not many who were approached were willing to discuss this story. It is not a bias story just part of the history.

This particular excerpt is exclusively about the trial of Allen Iverson and what happened in one night to change the direction of his life not about why his talent was never fully appreciated but maybe it is exactly that. Easy to judge and form an opinion and choose a side but no one knows the full story of someone’s life unless you have walked in their shoes.

Like Allen Iverson or not you can’t help but feel for this 17 year old kid with the lump in his throat as he was read his life changing sentence. This wasn’t Hollywood this was real raw footage.

I believe Allen Iverson is all about passion and his tears are sincere. I truly hope now he can overcome all the baggage, rumors and bad press that follow him and can pass this passion on to his own family and see his legacy turned into a positive for the next generation. I am a fan of anyone who can take mistakes and adversity, turn it around regardless of how long it takes. He is only 34 years old and he has plenty of time. I wish him good luck and good health. It’s a shame such a talented young man could not leave basketball with the glory that should have been but he is now on to the next chapter in his life. I hope it is a good one. I’m sure A I wishes he was “The Answer” instead he is left with all the questions.

On Sunday evening I attended the preview screening of one of the 30 for 30 documentaries funded by ESPN, No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson at The Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia. It was part of the Spring Preview of the Philadelphia Film Society, the tickets were free. The film was directed by award winning Steve James, noted for “Hoop Dreams”. James grew up in Hampton, VA, one generation ahead of Allen Iverson. Like a Sixes game, there were plenty of empty seats, no one cared enough to see this part of the story of Iverson.

The documentary No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson premieres on ESPN Tuesday April 13th at 8PM. The original footage alone is worth the watch.


  1. Nice middle school essay. Your parents must be proud. What grade did you get?

  2. Actually I was an average "B" student but I did learn to "be" kind. Thanks for your input.