The most intriguing job I’ve had was being a summer camp counselor in the early to mid-2000’s. Kids, more than any age bracket, are honest. Sometimes to a fault, but more than not, it’s always admirable. I had a young kid, probably 11 or 12, once tell me Allen Iverson was “the realest dude ever.” I asked what he meant by “realest,” and his answer stemmed around the fact he was referring to someone not in his family and Allen was “real” because he was himself regardless of whom he came in contact with.
Deciding to pick his brain, I asked what he knew about the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and people of that nature. His response to that was equally interesting. School taught him about them. His grandparents spoke highly of them. And while he appreciated “the marching and stuff,” he loved Iverson because he could reach out and touch him. In other words, he lived during Iverson’s reign instead of hearing secondhand stories. I respected the answer.
In a larger sense though, the kid’s adoration kind of represented everyone in Virginia. We aren’t necessarily a New York City or Chicago or any other big city known for developing icons in music, sports or any other form of pop culture. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve produced Pharrell, Timbaland, Missy, Mike Vick, Clipse, Chris Brown, Trey Songz and others, but there’s always been a chip on our shoulder of having something to prove. The story of Allen Iverson – affectionately known as Bubba Chuck around these parts – is well known. Stealing a line from the late Tupac Shakur, A.I.’s matriculation through the years mirrored a rose growing from concrete. An incredibly talented individual oftentimes running into the wrong side of the law on multiple occasions only to overcome those setbacks with more determination than he had before.
There was the now iconic Jordan crossover his rookie year. The scoring titles. The cornrows that inspired an entire generation to grow their hair out. The tattoos. The arm sleeve. The Tyronn Lue step-over. The 2001 All Star Game. The clashes with management. The fight to get back in the league. And then, of course, “practice.” The great Myles Brown said on a recent episode of The Unsportsmanlike Conduct Show he understood the fascination with Iverson, but never quite bought into the hype. There was a strategic recklessness about Iverson that either turned people off or won them over.
Maybe at no other point was this on full display than in 2006 during an appearance on Stephen A. Smith’s Quite Frankly.