Shortlisted for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing
“A searingly honest and intimate portrait of a captivating icon.” —Baxter Holmes, ESPN NBA reporter
Through extensive research and interviews with those closest to Iverson, acclaimed Washington Post sportswriter Kent Babb gets behind the familiar, sanitized, and heroic version of the hard-changing, hard-partying athlete who played every game as if it were his last.
Former NBA superstar Allen Iverson was once one of America’s most famous athletes: a trendsetter who transcended race, celebrity, and pop culture, and emerged from a troubled past to become one of the most successful and highly compensated athletes in the world. Now, his life and career come vividly to light in this “searingly honest” (Baxter Holmes) biography.
Babb brings to life a private, loyal, and often generous Allen Iverson who rarely made the headlines, revealing the back story behind some of Iverson’s most memorable moments, such as his infamous “Practice” rant, delving even deeper to discover where Iverson’s demons lurked. He drank too much, stayed out too late, spent more money than most people could spend in a dozen lifetimes—blowing more than $150 million of his NBA earnings alone.
His then wife Tawanna, seen often as the mild-mannered woman who tamed the bad boy, tried to keep her husband and family on the rails. But, as so many others learned on basketball courts, she was no match for the force of nature that was Iverson. Jealousy, meanness, and relentless eventually wore down even his biggest fans, teammates, and, eventually, even his most formidable opponent.
Babb, a Washington Post writer who profiled Allen Iverson's troubled life after basketball in 2013, extends his work into a sobering biography of the ex-NBA superstar. Iverson (who didn't participate in the book) took to basketball in Hampton, Va., where drugs and familial instability were the norm. He was given a five-year prison sentence for his role in a 1993 bowling alley brawl, but dodged it via gubernatorial clemency. The undersized guard's blinding talent won him special treatment from coaches, superiors, and other authorities, which paved the way for Iverson to live an undisciplined professional and personal life. According to Babb, he abhorred practice and workouts; he neglected his wife, Tawanna, and their kids for a hedonistic lifestyle; and while Iverson's anti-authority stance was a marketer's dream, his ego kept getting in the way. What steers Babb's work away from being a book-length condemnation is that he refuses to simplify Iverson, showing a man devoted to his childhood friends and a player whose passion endeared him to reporters, coaches, and teammates. Relying on research and outside interviews to shape his narrative, Babb delves deep into Iverson's inscrutable soul. This is a sad but fascinating read. Photos not seen by PW.