This article is for everyone who has turned their back on Allen Iverson. This is for everyone who once wore a number three jersey and now wear their nose turned up in the air. This is for journalists like Stephen A. Smith who built their careers around Iverson and now jump at the opportunity to tear him down. This is for the fans who forget about the nights Iverson electrified them with his performance but remember vividly the last negative report about him. This is for the people who find it easier to buy into what the media tells them than to stand up for the belief that maybe--just maybe--the stories aren’t completely true.
Allen Iverson is a basketball player. He’s a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend, a benefactor and so much more. But for most of us, Allen Iverson the basketball player is the only one we know. We watched him night in and night out, playing every game like it was his last. We watched him win scoring titles, lead the league in steals, and blow past people with his ankle-breaking crossover. We watched him in All-Star games and playoff games. For more than ten years we watched him give us everything he had--yet somehow--most of us are quick to forget the Allen we know and judge the Allen we don’t.
“If you've never talked to Allen Iverson or been around Allen Iverson--at all--how can you judge me? By what you read? By what you see on TV?” Iverson asked in an interview. “I had a guy say I don’t care about my kids, in Philadelphia. A radio guy, say I don’t care about my kids--the worst things, ever, you could say about a man--he said those things to me. But he pitched in my celebrity softball game. You know what I’m saying? What are you doing? What is your mentality?"
The next time you find yourself quick to judge a man that you don’t know beyond the basketball court-- think about how you would answer those questions. Think about the player who stood at center court holding an All-Star MVP trophy and asking for his coach. Think about the player who sat at the podium with his children falling asleep at his chest after leading his team during the 2001 playoffs. Think about the player who started the CrossOver Foundation and numerous charity events to empower the dreams of the youth. Think about the player who created the Allen Iverson Scholarship Endowment to support the success of underprivileged student athletes. Think about the player who walked to center court and kissed the Sixers logo on the hardwood upon his return to Philadelphia. Think about the basketball player that you do know.
And for those of you that still choose to judge Allen Iverson beyond the court, despite everything you don’t know about his life-- you could stand to learn a lesson from him in taking the high road: “I ask God to forgive them for what they don’t know,” he says about those on the outside judging him within.