Moriah Felder | Staff Writer
Twenty-two years ago, before Allen Iverson was an NBA Superstar and before he gave his infamous rant about practice, he was the best high school athlete in the country. His meteoric rise, however, was in jeopardy of being stopped as he was facing serious jail time for his participation in a brawl at the Circle Lanes bowling alley, now SpareTimes, in Hampton.
On February 14, 1993, 17-year-old Iverson was at the bowling alley with friends and walked across the alley to go to the snack bar when, according to The Daily Press, Steve Forest, a White man called him racial slurs and got in his face. Iverson said that the man hit him with a chair, which started the brawl.
Other witnesses say that Iverson walked over and started the confrontation with Forest. The part that is not disputed is that a fight broke out between Blacks and Whites in the bowling alley, where chairs were thrown and three people were injured.
A week later, Iverson and three others were charged for being a part of the mob. Members of the community felt that their prosecution was racially motivated because none of the White participants in the fight were charged and the prosecutor was trying to make a example of Iverson because he was a star athlete.
Iverson was tried as an adult in July 1993 for three felony counts of maiming by mob. He was represented by Herbert Kelly Sr., who was also the lawyer for Hampton University. According to an ESPN documentary on the case, some believed that Kelly represented Iverson for free with a motive in mind.
The theory behind this was that if Iverson was found innocent he would come play at Hampton University. Kelly did consult President Harvey before taking on the Iverson case, but the speculation was dismissed as just a theory.
However, Iverson was found guilty of all charges and was sentenced to 15 years, five years per count, but suspended 10 years. Although, he was sentenced to serve five years at the minimum-security jail, Newport News City Farm, he only served four months in jail. In December 1993 Governor Douglas Wilder granted Iverson conditional clemency.
This ruling meant that, upon his release, Iverson would observe a curfew, attend family counseling, finish high school and not play sports until August 1994, when he would have been eligible for parole.
After his release, Iverson completed his high school education at Richard Milburn High School, due to not being able to play sports at Bethel High School. During his junior year at Bethel, he lead both the football and basketball teams to state championship victories.
Iverson went on to attend Georgetown University for two years. As a Hoya, Iverson averaged 23 points per game, was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year twice, and was an All-American his second year at Georgetown. He would go pro after his sophomore year and was drafted first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1996 NBA Draft.
Iverson had a decorated career at the next level. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA Most Valuable Player in 2001, and an 11-time NBA All-Star. But despite his success, trouble still followed him. Iverson was known to skip practice, be uncoachable, selfish and angry. Still, he is one of the most polarizing figures in sports.
Although Iverson retired in 2011, members of Hampton Nation still respect his game and recognize how his troubled past affected his future.
“He’s a great point guard. But he left a negative impact with his thug look… but overall he did set the bar for point guards in the league,” Desiree Jones said, a second-year, 5 year MBA major from Atlanta.
“I think AI isn’t the greatest when it comes to personality, but when it comes to what he did to change basketball, he was monumental,” James Hooper said, a second-year, 5-year MBA major from Sayreville, New Jersey.
“He also brought in a new style of playing basketball by combining street and traditional basketball style.”
This case significantly changed Allen Iverson, similar to the way he forever changed the game of basketball. That night at the bowling alley caused the media to view him as a thug, but he never changed who he was. Today, he is seen as one of the most influential people in the game but, unfortunately, also as one of the most hated. But regardless of how you see him, he’s undoubtedly still a first-ballot Hall of Famer.