Rick Barry questioned Iverson's willingness to play team ball, and John Havlicek chided Iverson for having told Michael Jordan earlier this season that he does not have to respect anybody on the court. But the grenade that hurt the most was tossed by Elvin Hayes. Said the Big E, "If he doesn't show any respect for the guys in this room, and for today's top players, then maybe he should read up on them. His head is in the wrong place."
Against that backdrop Iverson trotted onto the court Saturday night for the Rookie Game to a smattering of jeers. Then, in leading his East squad to a 96-91 win over the West, Iverson put on a scintillating show—19 points, nine assists, three blocks and three steals—and was named the game's MVP. The reaction of the crowd at Gund Arena? Boos.
"I wish I wasn't the one singled out," Iverson said afterward. "The older guys get this idea about me from what they read in the papers. None of them have ever sat down and talked to me, and I think that's unfair. I have more love for this game than almost anyone, and that's the only thing that hurts, that they think I don't have respect for the game."
On Saturday, Iverson's image also suffered in contrast to that of his main foil, 18-year-old Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who won the slam-dunk competition with a between-the-legs jam. Bryant has dutifully respected and stroked his elders—not to mention passed them the ball.
But don't weep for Iverson. His new Reebok shoe, called The Question, went on sale nationwide last week. Iverson's agent, David Falk, says the advance orders for his client's shoe are close to a quarter of a million. Falk also insists Iverson's bad-guy image is inaccurate: "He hasn't missed a bus, a game, a practice. [Iverson was late to a game in January, for which Sixers coach Johnny Davis benched him for a few minutes.] He hasn't kicked anyone or spit at anyone." As for Iverson's cocky attitude, Falk says, "All he's doing is maintaining his competitive edge on the basketball court. Every great player does that."
Line of the Week
East swingman Glen Rice, Feb. 9, against the West: 25 minutes, 10-24 field goals, 2-2 free throws, 26 points. In winning All-Star Game MVP honors and leading his team to a 132-120 victory, Rice set All-Star records for points in a quarter (20, in the third) and points in a half (24). Hal Greer, who formerly held the record for most points in a quarter (19), and Wilt Chamberlain, who shared the record for most points in a half (23) with Tom Chambers, were on hand for the 50-greatest-players celebration and watched as Rice deleted their names from the record book. Rice's performance continued his scorching shooting streak (31.4-point average in the 20 games before the break).
Around the Rim
Raptors point guard Damon Stoudamire did not make many friends in the players' union by blowing off the player representatives' meetings in Cleveland. (Teammate Walt Williams took his place.) Stoudamire's excuse: He needed to fly home to Portland to talk to a contractor about building a fence around his basketball court....
Commissioner David Stern, attending an All-Star gala at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was monitored by security men with walkie-talkies who gave Stern the code name Elvis.