Iverson has been down this road before
By Peter Simunovich
One of the legendary rock n’ roll singer Elvis Presley’s favorite sayings was that you should never criticize a man until you have walked at least a mile in his shoes.
The Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, who is somewhat of a rap singer himself, knows exactly what Presley’s words meant. And he let it be known last weekend when he met the media after the United States basketball squad practiced at the John Jay College in midtown Manhattan in its first workout as part of the preparation for the 2004 Olympics.
The media always swarms all over the outspoken, controversial and highly talented Iverson. He attracts people. He has that personality. He is a wonderful player, he says what he thinks and usually there is no sugar coating.
One of the questions Iverson was asked after the session was about his thoughts on the Kobe Bryant felony sexual assault charge.
He didn’t duck the question. Head coach Larry Brown, who had a roller coaster relationship with Iverson when he was in charge of the 76ers before accepting a job with the Detroit Pistons, said he felt for everyone involved and Jason Kidd said he hoped everything worked out.
Iverson made it clear what his feelings were right away. He said that he would not talk about it because he had respect for Bryant and the victim. He would not be drawn into speculation or opinion because it would only complicate matters even more.
Iverson said that he went through something similar himself and the situation turned into a media circus and comedy. He even talked about how he hoped that planes (with photographers in them) would not be flying over Bryant’s home and he was against the paparazzi aiming their cameras on Bryant’s dog.
Iverson said the Bryant case had turned into a media circus.
Bryant was on the mark and should be applauded for his comments instead of voicing an opinion about something he knows nothing about. He wants the case to play itself out in the judicial system and not in the media.
Iverson also showed compassion saying that if Bryant was found innocent the experience and the speculation about the allegations would leave a scar “for the rest of his life.” These were wise words from a man who has had a checkered past and as Presley said never criticize a man unless you have walked at least a mile in his shoes.
For the record, Bryant withdrew from the 12-player squad because of a knee injury and hopes to rejoin it later. He was replaced by the Toronto Raptors Vince Carter. The U.S. squad is made up of Iverson, Carter, Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Nick Collison, Mike Bibby, Karl Malone, Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Elton Brand and Richard Jefferson.
The team will compete in the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from August 20 to 31. The top three in the 10-nation tournament will win a spot in the Olympics.
The Americans, who are considered a certainty to win the tournament in San Juan unless the wheels completely fall off, are taking the Olympics seriously after they had finished a disappointing sixth in last year’s world championships in Indianapolis.
And, as Kidd pointed out, the National Basketball Association has many international players and because the game had flourished the European countries in particular were now a genuine threat to the U.S., which has won 12 gold medals, one silver and one bronze in the Olympics.
“We have to play hard and respect our opponents,” said Duncan. Kidd added: “We have to go out and try to win every game.”