continues it’s 30 for 30 documentary series tonight with the broadcast
premiere of “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson” (8:00PM/ESPN
and again at 11:00PM/ESPN2). The film is directed by Steve James, who
is most famous for his work on another basketball documentary – Hoop
Dreams. James, who like Iverson is from Hampton, Virginia, returns to
his hometown to examine the circumstances, impact, and eventual fallout
from Iverson’s felony conviction following a 1993 racially charged
bowling alley brawl.
got an advance look at the film when it premiered in Philly on Sunday
night as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival’s Spring Preview.
Without giving too much away you should know that this is not a film
about Iverson’s considerable impact on Philadelphia, the NBA, or popular
culture. It is about the polarizing effect Iverson’s arrest, conviction,
and ultimate release from prison thanks to then Virginia governor
Wilder commuting his sentence four months into his prison term, had
on the community of Hampton.
let me say that I do not think it is appropriate for me to share my
opinions as to the merits of the charges and the process afforded him
by the justice system. You can make up your own mind after watching
the film. What I was interested in was how this experience helped to
shape the Allen Iverson who left us, the 76ers fans, alternately awed
by his talent and heart, yet frustrated and confused by his selfishness
am guessing that if I asked you to describe Allen Iverson one of the
following words would likely be included: electric, polarizing,
controversial, emotional, misunderstood, petulant, gifted, troubled,
honest, guarded, real, and disingenuous. He had the unique ability to
be all these things at the same. What this film made plainly clear was
that Iverson was all of these things dating back to high school. He
came to Philly having already been at the epicenter of an athletic,
political, judicial, racial, and social firestorm.
This one event was the catalyst for everything else that happened in
career. He was both a victim and beneficiary of his celebrity. He was
persecuted and emboldened. To steal/paraphrase a line from The Simpsons
of all places his unbelievable athletic ability was the cause of and
answer to all his problems. For me, the quintessential Iverson moment
from the film is when he left Hampton days before he was to be sentenced
to go play at a Nike All-American camp. The prosecution and judge
his decision to play as a lack of respect for the law. He was either
unable or unwilling to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Which
one it is, we’ll never know. Regardless, right or wrong he did his
own thing. Sound familiar?
years later the effects of the Iverson trial still reverberate in
Numerous key players in the drama, including Iverson himself, refused
to grant interviews to the filmmakers. Iverson remains a divisive figure
in Hampton. Some think he was railroaded. Others think he was given
leniency thanks to his athletic exploits. The only thing that is
is that everyone has an opinion on what happened.
nothing else the film reiterates something the people of Hampton learned
when AI was a teenager. It reiterates something we realized about him
the first time he put on a Sixers uniform. Basketball fans across the
planet were quick to recognize it is well. No matter where he is, no
matter what he’s doing, no matter whether you are his biggest fan
or his harshest critic there is one simple truth which has informed
his entire life since he entered Bethel High School. What remains
It’s impossible to take your eyes off of him. This film is no exception.