"I can’t satisfy everybody. I can’t be the Allen Iverson that you want me to be. The only Allen Iverson I can be is the Allen Iverson that I am."
On Sunday evening, Iverson attended a sold-out screening of the new documentary film Iverson to close out the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The film itself, an ambitious seven-year project from first-time director Zatella Beatty and co-produced with Mandalay Sports Media and Moore Entertainment, is a strong 97-minute look at one of the most influential and fascinating NBA players of the past two decades, both on and off the court.
The film is not the first documentary about Iverson, but it is the first in which he actively participated, and it explores the crossovers, the tattoos and the brash style of “The Answer.” Perhaps most importantly, it explores Iverson’s journey, in his own words, of the pain, struggle and survival it took to become an icon for a certain generation of basketball fans.
Beatty spends time with Iverson’s childhood friends, teachers and coaches to focus on his upbringing in Hampton, Va. She touches on Iverson’s incarceration from a 1993 bowling alley brawl that nearly ended his athletic career. She touches on his time at Georgetown and the incredible relationship Iverson had with the city of Philadelphia, where he was the No. 1 pick of the Sixers and remains a franchise icon. She also touches on the cultural impact of a man who changed not just the game he played, but culture and life as a modern athlete.
Through it all, Iverson has had his detractors. But this film is not about soul-searching or apologizing for mistakes made. A.I., as he has always been, is unapologetic in his own endearing ways.
A few highlights of the film include a lengthy explanation of the famous “Practice” rant that lives on in Iverson infamy and Iverson’s unabashed love for Tom Brokaw. For those who only saw the practice clip, what the film makes you realize is how out of context that soundbite really was (one of Iverson’s best friends had just died and the team was eliminated from the playoffs, yet he was being questioned about practice). On the Brokaw front, Iverson credits the legendary NBC newsman as telling his story of wrongful incarceration stemming from the bowling alley brawl to a wider audience, which ultimately led to his pardon from then-Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder.
“The gift of this film is that it gives kids from my neighborhood, who go through what I went through, hope,” Iverson said in a Q&A in the theater after the premiere. “If he did it, I can do it. The little dudes from around my way or little women from around my way, I want them to know they can survive regardless. And that’s it.”