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A different kind of Answer

Sued over a speech? Practice is good? It's a new A.I.

Posted: Friday October 5, 2007 3:12PM; Updated: Friday October 5, 2007 6:46PM
Allen Iverson is entering his 12th NBA season and first full campaign with the Nuggets.
Allen Iverson is entering his 12th NBA season and first full campaign with the Nuggets.

When I saw the neon tabloid headline "Allen Iverson faces lawsuit," I thought that the 21st-century NBA bad boy was back courting trouble. I felt the jolt of curiosity that always comes when the man who causes David Stern to reach for the Maalox makes headlines for off-court issues.

But this time the troubles facing A.I. speak not to the renegade youth who taught a nation that a neck tattoo could be fashionable. It's the kind of banal trouble that seems to fit more the person A.I. has become: a thirtysomething elder with some salt and pepper in the cornrows.

Iverson won't be headed to court for any kind of after-hours hijinks. The lawsuit claims that, after taking $10,000 as an advance for a speaking engagement, he didn't show, leaving 2,000 fans waiting about three hours at an Omaha, Neb., high school. His spokesperson claimed a family emergency, but the event organizers want their 10 grand back as well as "$33,000 in special damages, including the cost of renting a plane and sending it to pick up the star in Virginia."

Iverson responded that he had alerted the organizers that he wouldn't be attending. "I have to deal with it like a man," he told reporters Thursday.

I'd like to say good for A.I., but right now hearts are breaking among the faithful. Iverson getting negative press for missing a speaking event in Omaha? What's next? Will he show up late for a talk at the Elks Club? Is he cheating at golf? Will he wear white after Labor Day?

This is a crisis of generational proportions. This is Joe DiMaggio selling us Mr. Coffee. This is Eddie Murphy in Daddy Day Care. This is Sam Malone taking off his toupee.

Whether Stern wants to admit it or not, a whole generation of NBA fans has lived vicariously through Iverson's hip-hop outlaw aesthetic. The man who didn't practice but busted his behind on every play. The man who slouched on the bench, his eyelids at half-mast, who could stand and outrun everyone on the court with wicked abandon.

That man wouldn't stand up a crowd in Omaha because Omaha would never have been in his evening plans.

A.I. has always been a man who thumbed his nose at the system without thumbing his nose at his wicked talent (think Isaiah Rider) while becoming the best little man in the history of the game. This is the man who as a rookie said after schooling Michael Jordan on a crossover, "Jordan is not my hero. None of my heroes wear suits." This is the man who said about the Philadelphia police, "I know that if there's a crooked cop out there, they could do anything to me. He could do anything. Allen Iverson could wind up dead tomorrow if a crooked cop wants him dead. It's as simple as that."

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