Allen Iverson’s sad saga from All-Star NBA point guard to debt-ridden divorcee

Former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson’s journey from rags-to-riches-to-rags is told in “Not A Game,” by Kent Babb.

He whispered into the telephone in 2011, not knowing Tawanna was listening from around the corner. Iverson was asking Samuel Dalembert, a friend and former Sixers teammate, for money. Just a little help to get him through a tough time, Iverson told his friend, until his next signing bonus.

Iverson had for years accumulated wealth that, as a boy in Hampton (Va.), he could only dream of. Gone were the days of wearing boots to cross the sewage-soaked floor and bumming rides from coaches to practices.

Distant were the memories of a kid whose mother paid the light bill and bought her only son clothes because drug dealers occasionally slipped her money.

During the 2008-09 season, the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons paid him nearly $21 million, the highest single-season salary of Iverson’s career.

But two years later, much of that — and most everything else in a vast, $155 million fortune in NBA salary alone — was mostly gone. Iverson’s financial empire was collapsing under a mountain of growing debt and a refusal to abandon a lifestyle that, whether he accepted it or not, he could no longer afford.

Allen was hardly the first to fall victim to a financial epidemic that, in the past two decades, came to afflict many former sports stars.

Growing up in poverty and rampant want, young athletes were suddenly among the megarich, with seemingly bottomless bank accounts. The NFL star Michael Vick, a fellow product of Virginia’s Tidewater region, was among many stars to file for bankruptcy.

Others sold off championship rings and Heisman Trophies to make ends meet, because once the contracts were gone and the reality set in that these athletes possessed few real-world skills, there was nothing left but desperation.

A combination of financially supporting family members and friends, a lack of knowledge about money management, and failed investments became a common and sad end to many of the athletes once among America’s richest.

Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, former world champion boxers who had experienced unfathomable paydays, squandered hundreds of millions in earnings.

Vince Young, who led the University of Texas to a national championship and later signed a $26 million contract with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, blew it all in five years because he had a $5,000-a-week addiction to, of all places, the Cheesecake Factory.

Iverson’s weaknesses were chain restaurants and his “first-day friends,” the crew from Hampton who had always believed in him.

Not that he minded the jewelry and expensive clothes, but those were as much a statement of his climb as they were regular, high-dollar indulgences. . . .

By 2011, NBA teams were no longer calling Iverson with contract offers, forcing him to wait for an annual $800,000 payment from Reebok, part of his lifetime contract with the shoe manufacturer. But not long after the payment hit each year, it was gone, in part because Tawanna needed to pay bills on their homes, including a $4.5 million gated estate in northwest Atlanta that Iverson had spared no expense in customizing.

Among the features of the house were nearly ten thousand square feet, a sprawling bar and a gourmet kitchen, and rain gutters made from pure copper.

Now, with creditors calling, his wife threatening divorce, and Iverson’s representatives repeatedly striking out on a new NBA contract, the walls were closing in.

On April 14, 2011, Tawanna entered Regal Collection, a jewelry store in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead district, and unveiled much of her jewelry collection. Four rings, including her diamond eternity band, hit the store’s showcase, along with an 8.47-carat diamond baguette, a 5.27-carat radiant-cut loose yellow diamond, and a diamond choker necklace that Iverson had given her as a gift.

Seven sets of earrings and eight watches also were among the forty-two pieces, all of which Tawanna asked the store to sell on consignment.

The full story makes for even more interesting reading.


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