Through extensive research and interviews with those closest to Iverson, acclaimed Washington Post sportswriter Kent Babb gets behind the familiar, sanitized, and heroic version of Iverson--the hard-charging, hard-partying athlete who played every game as if it were his last. Babb brings to life a private, loyal, and often generous Allen Iverson who rarely made the headlines, revealing the back story behind some of Iverson's most memorable moments, such as his infamous "Practice" rant, delving even deeper to discover where Iverson's demons lurked. He drank too much, stayed out too late, spent more money than most people could spend in a dozen lifetimes--blowing more than $150 million of his NBA earnings alone. His then wife Tawanna, seen often as the mild-mannered woman who tamed the bad boy, tried to keep her husband and family on the rails. But she was no match, as so many others learned on basketball courts, for the force of nature that Iverson was--jealousy, meanness, and a restlessness eventually wearing down even his biggest fan, teammate, and, eventually, his most formidable opponent.
Over time, Iverson himself had come to believe his own hype: that he lived in a world where celebrity is eternal and riches are everlasting. He was about that life even when he was no longer the fastest man on the court, as endorsement deals and long-term contracts became a thing of the past. Some in his inner circle saw the writing on the wall and encouraged Iverson to embrace life beyond basketball. But instead, he remained in denial.
Not a Game is an impeccably researched, sometimes uncomfortable look at the factors that led to the rise and fall of a basketball superstar. In doing so, it illuminates the dark side of our modern day, multi-billion dollar sports and entertainment culture in which talented players are disposable and all too often success and tragedy wear the same number.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Babb, a Washington Post writer who profiled Allen Iverson's troubled life after basketball in 2013, extends his work into a sobering biography of the ex-NBA superstar. Iverson (who didn't participate in the book) took to basketball in Hampton, Va., where drugs and familial instability were the norm. He was given a five-year prison sentence for his role in a 1993 bowling alley brawl, but dodged it via gubernatorial clemency. The undersized guard's blinding talent won him special treatment from coaches, superiors, and other authorities, which paved the way for Iverson to live an undisciplined professional and personal life. According to Babb, he abhorred practice and workouts; he neglected his wife, Tawanna, and their kids for a hedonistic lifestyle; and while Iverson's anti-authority stance was a marketer's dream, his ego kept getting in the way. What steers Babb's work away from being a book-length condemnation is that he refuses to simplify Iverson, showing a man devoted to his childhood friends and a player whose passion endeared him to reporters, coaches, and teammates. Relying on research and outside interviews to shape his narrative, Babb delves deep into Iverson's inscrutable soul. This is a sad but fascinating read. Photos not seen by PW. (June)