- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Larry Brown and Allen Iverson are trying to keep it real again in Philadelphia.
Brown is the coach of the 76ers, Iverson the star player, and they are ever determined to learn if one locker room is large enough for both of them.
They have this cute way between them. Iverson just wants to keep it real, which sometimes is too real for Brown, who is real obsessed with practice times, bad shots and a disappointing defeat in the first round of the playoffs.
Brown is as real as a 61-year-old coach can be, which is real enough in the real world. Of course, you don't have to be really real in the real world. You just have to be real, however you define real.
Iverson tries to keep it really real, almost too real for someone who makes a zillion dollars, takes a lot of bad shots and decorates his body with all kinds of stunning art. He seems to be a serious person, which goes with keeping it real.
"Me, me, me," he said in a genuinely real press conference last night. "Why? Why? Why?"
That's easy. Real. Real. Real.
His persecution complex is fairly ample, too.
Who said a press conference has to be bland? Iverson gives a better press conference than Mike Tyson, and with no bite marks, just uncensored realness.
The press conference had the feel of a low-speed freeway chase involving the white Bronco. Go, O.J., go. You go, too, A.I. All together now, everyone, how would you describe it? Surreal? Correct. Surreal is long for keeping it real.
Keeping it real is a noble pursuit, although most souls usually don't give a thought to how real they are. It comes naturally. Besides, if you have to try to keep it real, then it becomes almost contrived, almost unreal. It doesn't work, sort of like the middle-aged guy who tries so hard to be hip. He ends up coming across as the one guy who never dressed out for P.E. class in high school. Middle-aged hipness, if there is such a thing, is his revenge. Now he's Dirk Diggler beneath the armor.
Most souls go to work each day, eat and sleep, and that is about as real as it gets. They have two arms and two legs, the usual stuff, and their need to keep it real is sometimes tempered by the needs of those around them to keep it real.
Most people just want to breathe, which is a whole lot more important than trying to keep it real. If you can't breathe, you can't keep it real, and that is all there is to it.
If you called your boss today to say you would not be at work because of a desire to keep it real, your boss probably would wonder if you were having some kind of out-of-body experience. If not, your boss might ask: "How real is eating to you?"
But that is the real world, which is different from the make-believe world of the NBA.
In the NBA, if you are forever committed to keeping it real, observers nod their heads and go, "Yeah. Beautiful. Power to the keep-it-real people."
This is deep stuff, with so many layers of complexity to it, plus a good assortment of four-letter words.
Obviously, Iverson, who is able to breathe under his own power, sometimes feels a need to blow off practice to keep it real, to stay true to his roots in Hampton, Va. Brown feels obligated to accept this, and not just because Iverson is his best player. Brown is under orders from the cultural elite to understand, even if he is unable to understand.
It is a new day out there, and all of us are under orders to understand and feel the pain of others. There is so much pain out there. There is so much to understand. Why do they hate us? If only we knew, the world would be a warm, peaceful place.
The pain is real, too, and if you cannot relate to another person's pain, then you are in no position to judge the person's action. How can you know what it means to be Iverson? You can't. No way. Just try walking in his shoes for an hour. He dares you. Dead best friend. Besieged 7-year-old daughter. A tough summer ahead. Why? Why? Why?
Brown, the poor guy, came up in a different time, back in the awful days of Ozzie and Harriet instead of the enlightened days of Ozzy and Sharon, and he has not had the good graces to retire or die yet.
So Brown is consigned to having a series of misunderstandings with Iverson, who is so darn real, so impressively real, a thinker, philosopher and Renaissance man of the times.
What does practice have to do with the game anyway? Iverson shows up to the games, plays hard and keeps it as real as any player in the NBA.
Iverson is a number of things, but more than anything else, he is a keep-it-real player. He is real; therefore, he is.
Iverson is the realist whose reality is based on his life experiences, not yours or Brown's, and if you expect him to conform to your reality, you are missing the essence of who he is. He can't be himself if you impose your reality on him.
Iverson has so much pain in his background. He has needs. He has a depth to him that extends beyond the court. He can't possibly keep it real if he is always being required to meet Brown's idea of what is real. This is the clash, real to real, one authentic person vs. another.
Brown sets a practice time, and so, Iverson has no choice but to show up late or not at all on occasion. That is his attempt to keep it real, to be at one with the Jesuits at Georgetown, and don't you ever forget it.
Unfortunately, Brown expects Iverson to be with the program, because it is only a basketball operation, after all. It is not as if Iverson has to fit keeping it real in a 9-to-5 workday.
But in the end, who knows?
Brown and Iverson were said to be in love at this time last year, en route to the NBA Finals. If you recall the spin at the time, it was said they understood one another, and a nation was able to go about its daily activities in good cheer.
Now, though, a year later, Brown and Iverson are back to trying to keep it real, and the past is the past, except if you have endured pain in your past, and your pain is somehow more intense than someone else's pain.
In this context, your realness is something to behold.
Iverson possibly is more real than Brown, depending on how you define it. Regardless, theirs is a wonderful realness. If there are a few misunderstandings along the way, so be it.
Their No. 1 priority is to keep it real. That's good advice. Keep it real today, Washington.


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