Former NBA star Allen Iverson was allegedly drunk during his iconic “we’re talking about practice” press conference on May 3, 2002.
That is the contention of Kent Babb, author of the new book Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson.
In the famous rant, the player nicknamed “the Answer” answered with “we’re talking practice” 22 times in meeting with reporters after the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
A former NBA Rookie of the Year, MVP, and four-time scoring champion, Iverson spent most of his 14-year career with the Sixers after being selected by the team as the first overall pick in 1996. He also was a member of the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies as well as played for a team in Turkey. He averaged 26.7 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.7 rebounds for his NBA career. He averaged 29.7 points per game in the playoffs, second all time behind Michael Jordan.
Iverson, who has encountered well-documented issues off the court, met with the media on that occasion, at GM Billy King’s suggestion, shortly after showing up late for an end-of-season huddle with then-head coach Larry Brown, in which they reportedly clashed about whether AI was on the trading block, which Brown denied. Iverson left the team facility with a friend but came back later for the press conference.
According to Babb’s book, ESPN reports, “Some were entertained, and others watched the train wreck unfold, knowing from experience that Iverson was drunk.”
“King tried to think of a way to stop the press conference,” the book further contends according to ESPN, “while [team president Pat] Croce, watching on television, said he suspected Iverson was drunk and asked his wife to shut off the TV.”
Added Daily News reporter John Smallwood, “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.”
On a radio interview this week in which he addressed the memorable Iverson press conference, Babb declared that “Larry Brown told me that he disappeared and came back, was slurring, red eyes, all this stuff… All these people who were in the room and in the facility that day, to them it was a foregone conclusion that he’d gone and thrown back a few pops in the last three or four hours before that press conference. Because there was kind of this opening of time and Larry Brown believes he went to the bar…”
On the First Take television show today, ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith called the allegation that Allen Iverson was drunk “a flat-out lie.”
On his radio show, Smith added the following about the player who he described was, in 2002, one of the most accomplished athletes in the world in the then-prime of his career, “I spoke to Allen Iverson this morning for 45 minutes … and more importantly, I’ve known him for 19 years … Allen Iverson was not drunk during the press conference … Allen Iverson was disturbed because the Philadelphia 76ers were talking about trading him …to the Detroit Pistons…”
Allen Iverson admitted at his formal retirement announcement in October 2013 that if he could go back, he never would have appeared at the “we’re talking about practice” news conference, although he expressed happiness that the fans enjoyed the sound bite.
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