- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Allen Iverson is determined to be a clear-thinking citizen until the next time.

There is always a next time with Iverson, and it usually is the fault of the system, overzealous prosecutors and a celebrity-obsessed media.

As expected, Iverson's latest brush with the criminal-justice system turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. Before the legal posturing is concluded, Judge James DeLeon probably will order the city of Philadelphia to apologize to Iverson and to his naked wife.

This is how it goes if you shoot a basketball 30 times a game and have a wicked crossover dribble. America genuflects in your presence, regardless of your propensity to be a clown.

Of course, clowns have rights, too, and Iverson is a special clown. His capacity to amuse America is more impressive than his capacity to carry a basketball team.

Iverson is the quintessential entertainer: a basketball maestro, courtroom Houdini, rap artist and gifted orator.

You can't take that away from him. Not that you would want to try. He might flash the handgun sticking out from his waistband.

America cannot say it was not warned if something truly bad ever happens to Iverson's naked wife or to his hangers-on or to someone who just happens to get in the way.

If you recall, Ronald Goldman just happened to get in the way of the golf-playing members of the Colombian cartel. Goldman, the forgotten victim, was in the wrong place at the wrong time after the duffers from Colombia traveled to Los Angeles to attend to the business of Nicole Brown Simpson.

The usual questions in the media soon followed, namely: In the years before the double murder, why didn't the system respond with muscle to the calls of spousal abuse?

The answer was obvious enough. The system was too busy getting O.J. Simpson's autograph. Simpson had the money, fame and smile to make it all right.

Simpson had nothing to do with the double murder anyway. So now he spends all his time looking for the "real killers," as he vowed to do following his acquittal.

The search inevitably takes him to the golf course, which is why most mystery-loving Americans believe the "real killers" are golfers, and possibly from the Colombian cartel.

The latter was one of the theories peddled by Simpson's formidable defense team. It was a pretty good theory. It beat the theory of the one-armed man.

This is not to suggest that Iverson, in a moment of extreme frustration, ever could keep it as real as the golf-playing members of the Colombian cartel. It is just that his trusty stay-out-of-jail card provides him with a worrisome level of empowerment.

Iverson answers to no one, really, not to his coach, not to his team and certainly not to his naked wife. That, no doubt, is one of the reasons he is the Answer.

He might be under the impression that playing basketball, a game, is significant stuff. Who can blame him? The best charioteers probably thought the same thing at one time.

Iverson flashed the victory sign following the preliminary hearing. The system just can't keep a good man down, no matter how hard it tries.

The judge did his best to be fair. As he noted, he removed his Iverson jersey after landing the case.

The attention devoted to the proceedings was remarkable, starting with the media's round-the-clock vigil at Iverson's home while he partied the night away.

The contrived interest in Iverson was made in deference to his MVP stature, intriguing legal record and brand name. This explains the footnote-like treatment accorded the other love-torn athletes in the news lately, if an explanation is necessary to Scott Erickson, Al Unser Jr., Derrick Rodgers and Glenn Robinson.

As it was, there was no need on Iverson's part to be concerned with the legal battle ahead or dismayed with the helicopter hovering over his mansion.

Iverson has a governor's pardon in his briefcase, a few other trumped-up charges that were misinterpreted and a savvy lawyer in Richard Sprague.

The system never should have bothered with the case. It was a waste of time, money and energy. Celebrity cases rarely go anywhere unless a celebrity is before a judge for the zillionth time.

If a police officer ever saw Iverson chasing after his naked wife, the officer would be wise to pull into the nearest convenience store and have a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Who needs the aggravation if the system is reluctant to be serious with celebrities? Who wants to deal with a fancy lawyer, the media and a circus that aspires only to entertain?

Celebrities don't play by our rules, and never have, so why bother with the pretense?

Iverson is left to embrace the cliche of the streets, however incongruent the cliche is on him. With a nod and a wink, he embraces that which he rejects. The culture around him does not object. This is merely imagery with an edge, and a depth of pain. All kinds of entertainers before Iverson have filled their bank accounts on this shtick. It sells, as Reebok's executives understand. Was theirs a predictable reaction, or what, falling as they did behind their leading shoe salesman?

It was too easy. After all, they were allowed to wear their clothes, the same as the judge. The judge, thank goodness, reported to work in a suit instead of an Iverson jersey. Being fully clothed contributed to the sense of detachment that worked in Iverson's favor. As long as you are not the one who is naked, and hiding out, what's the problem?

The hearing was the beginning of a happy ending to an unfortunate circumstance.

With two tsk-tsk charges still hanging over him, Iverson probably will be ordered to sweep the sidewalk leading to his mansion.

After completing this community service, Iverson then will be able to devote himself again to the business of leading the 76ers to an NBA championship.

As always, Larry Brown's practice sessions next season remain optional to Iverson.


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