A new biography of former Philadelphia 76ers star guard Allen Iverson alleges that Iverson was profoundly drunk at the infamous 2002 press conference in which he intoned some variation of “we’re talking about practice” 22 times.
According to Kent Babb’s new book, Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson, Larry Brown, the 76ers coach at the time, former 76ers president Pat Croce, and former general manager Billy King all agreed that Iverson had been drinking heavily prior to the press conference, which King suggested Iverson attend four days after the 76ers lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Iverson had just met with Brown to discuss his future, arriving late and engendering an argument in the parking lot. Brown had opined prior to the meeting that any 76er could be traded. The book asserts that Iverson asked Brown if he was likely to be traded. Brown answered no.
Iverson then left, accompanied by a friend, and came back for the press conference drunk. Brown told Babb, “I assumed he went and fooled around somewhere,” making a gesture indicating drinking. King admitted that he knew Iverson was acting strangely but “if we thought that he was drinking or whatever, we’d have never done it.” The book claims King was trying to find a way to abort the press conference while Croce, watching the conference on television, realized Iverson was drunk and asked his wife to turn the television off.
John Smallwood, a Daily News columnist at the conference, recalled, “He was lit. If he had been sober, he would have been able to get himself out of that. He never would’ve gone down that path. Maybe you had to have been around him all the time to know the difference, but we all knew.”
In 2013, Iverson excused his behavior in 2002 by citing the murder of his friend, Rahsaan Langford, who was killed seven months prior to the press conference. He said, “They had no idea my best friend had just got killed. The press conference wasn’t about practice; it was about me (possibly) being traded from Philadelphia. Nobody ever talked about that, never heard why I was upset or what the conference was about.”
The book also claims other instances indicative of bad character, including Iverson allegedly threatening his wife, Tawanna, that he would offer $5,000 to have her murdered; allegedly telling her he would offer a man $1 million to testify in court that he had slept with her; and allegedly leaving his small children alone in a hotel room all night while he went out drinking.
Babb told Deadspin, “Throughout this entire process, I wanted Iverson to be a good guy who sometimes did bad stuff. But I don’t think that’s true. In fact, it’s probably the opposite.”