A few minutes after 6:30 Friday evening, a polished black Bentley Azure slowed to a stop outside ESPN Zone in the District. Out stepped Allen Iverson, clad in his normal get-up of baggy shorts, a do-rag, a sideways baseball cap, dark shades and plenty of bling. Flanked by his notorious entourage, the Denver Nuggets star sashayed past reporters and fans gathered outside the restaurant and made his way inside to kick off his annual Celebrity Softball Summer Classic weekend.
He was more than an hour late.
Iverson offered no explanation or apology for his tardiness, nor did he want to discuss the decision by a federal jury that called for him to pay $260,000 to a Maryland man his security detail assaulted at the D.C. nightspot Eyebar in 2005.
“We are going to deal with this [ruling],” said Iverson’s attorney, Alan Milstein, doing his best to diffuse the situation before his client took the podium. “The judge certainly dismissed any claim that Allen hit anyone. We are hopeful that this thing will be reversed and that justice will be served.”
“Well, this is obviously a good day — even the media want to be positive,” said Iverson, sitting with his four children. “I am here to talk about something positive. You want to get something negative out of this situation, the exit is right over there. Positive news sells, too, you know.”
Iverson’s charity softball event — which took place Saturday at Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie and benefited the Allen Iverson Student Athlete Scholarship Fund and the Crossover Foundation — was a sunny spot of good press for a man mired between last week’s verdict and another pending suit for a similar late-night fracas at Zanzibar on the Waterfront, also in the District, in 2005.
“We send out press releases and press releases, and you probably never get to hear all of the good things that Allen does,” said Gary Moore, president and CEO of Crossover Promotions Inc. and Iverson’s longtime mentor. “Allen has always strived to encourage young people to live right and do the right thing.”
Iverson has endowed three scholarships and has been working with inner-city youth for a decade in the District, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Denver and his hometown of Hampton, Va.
“I want to give back to these kids,” Iverson said. “That’s the most important thing to me. As long as the kids get something out of it, I am happy. I want them to learn from me. The mistakes that I’ve had, the success that I’ve had, maybe a lot of these kids that look at my life and look at my career won’t do some of the things that I did growing up.”
Age has worn on the 32-year-old former first pick overall, both on the court and off it. In December, Iverson elected to share the ball with Carmelo Anthony in Denver rather than close out his career as the Philadelphia 76ers’ main attraction. The throng of autograph seekers outside ESPN Zone on Friday was considerably smaller than it would have been six years ago, when Iverson led the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals as league MVP.
“He’s probably my third favorite player behind Carmelo Anthony and Yao Ming,” said Ray Herring, a Wizards fan from Haymarket, Va., who added that he wouldn’t trade Gilbert Arenas for Iverson. “He’s kind of getting up there.”
Iverson, who averaged 24.8 points in his diminished role for the Nuggets last season, shared the spotlight even at his own event, with Anthony serving as the marquee name at Saturday’s slow-pitch game.
Iverson has been one of sports’ most controversial figures since his high school days in Hampton, and the eighttime All-Star’s words reflected an aging athlete with many regrets, yet a man comfortable enough in his own skin to continue living life in the same edgy manner as is his custom.
“People know that I make mistakes with my life. I’m not doing the same things I did when I was just coming into the league — I was rich after being poor my whole life, and I made some mistakes,” Iverson said. “I got my own four kids. They watch my every move. My 9-year-old, my 12-year-old, they can read the paper. They know what’s going on when my face flashes across the TV. So I think about them with the decisions I make.”View Entire Story
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