Allen Iverson Retires with Less Money than a Five Year Old
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
A great Vh-1 biopic in 15 years might be the called “The Rise and Fall of Mr. Allen Iverson.” Iverson has been deemed by the biggest names in sports to be the greatest NBA player of all time for those under 6’2” tall. He was lightning fast, could jump out of the gym, and made more money in a year than most of us earn in a lifetime.
Iverson’s recent retirement was only a surprise to those who either a) thought he’d retired three years ago, or b) thought he would never get old. The man was amazing on the court, but an absolute mess off of it.
Iverson earned nearly $200 million during his NBA career, and had an endorsement deal with Reebok worth $50 million. But his commitment to excessive spending cost him big, as well as his need to feed an insatiable appetite for gambling. He once spent over $1 million in one day at an Atlantic City casino and ended up paying $1.2 million to his ex-wife Tawanna for alimony. The battle for alimony and child support still continues and Allen keeps falling behind.
There is a part of me that loved Allen Iverson so much. He was one of the fiercest athletes to ever step on a basketball court, and he could have been just as great at football, tennis, baseball, track or any other sport. The man was a freak of nature.
There is another part of me that feels sorry for Iverson. He rose out of dire poverty and didn’t have the kinds of role models he needed in order to learn how to make good decisions with his life. He was a walking billboard for everything that can possibly go wrong in the life of a black man in America, where even the empowerment of hip-hop culture has turned into a corrosive force that destroys the souls of millions of men before they even reach adulthood.
We now somehow think it’s NORMAL to hit the liquor and weed all day, run from woman-to-woman, to not take care of our kids and to walk away from education. The weirdest thing about our society is that there are some people who think I’m weird for pointing all this out. But when our future husbands and fathers are so often encouraged to destroy their lives by commercial entities like BET and Clear Channel, it’s like living in a world where outside forces are sprinkling rat poison onto our brains. The current state of our culture doesn’t grow heart surgeons and lawyers, it creates wannabe thugs and alcoholics.
Iverson’s net worth now officially stands at no greater than negative one million dollars, but it’s even worse, according to some reports. He has $30 million in a rainy day fund created by Reebok, but he can’t touch that money until he’s 55-years old (so, he has almost no money now, even if he’s going to have money as an old man). Also, the creditors will surely be lined up to take that $30 million dollar payment too, and right now, it appears that his monthly income is far outweighed by his debts. So, rather than being the great gladiator that he once was, Iverson now roams the earth as a shadow of himself, so sad and downtrodden that you want to buy him a cheeseburger for good luck.
We can get into the semantics for those who somehow believe that this $30 million dollar payoff 17 years from now is going to save Allen’s finances – too many of us are accustomed to measuring our financial condition or ignoring bad financial decisions based on a paycheck or tax refund set to arrive in the future. But take it from a Finance Professor….that money is likely already spent; the courts aren’t going to let him collect a large sum of money while there are so many people and companies that he owes. My late grandmother (and first finance teacher) explained that if you don’t change who you are on the inside, then your life will always reflect the state of your internal condition. In other words, Iverson will have to adjust his approach to spending if he is to ever have a chance at a normal existence.
The truth is that Allen Iverson is a great man, both mentally and physically. His neurons fired at a rate faster than any of us, which is what made him so amazing on the court. But like a lot of athletes, he thought that the money train would not end. Spending another $10,000 here and $50,000 there seems easy when you’ve got a $70 million dollar contract on the way and don’t feel that you’re ever going to grow old.
All black men need to observe the tragedy called Allen Iverson and admit to ourselves that this sad scenario is replicated all around us. This kind of train wreck of a life is what we get when we allow our brains to be flooded with arrogance, and are duped into believing that we can never be caught and never go down. If your life is filled with weed, liquor, gambling and one woman after another, you soon find yourself to be a broken, disease-ridden, incarcerated, depressed, substance-addicted, financially-devastated soul who is so pathetic that even your own son can’t look you in the eye. A real man doesn’t let himself go out like that.
I have tremendous love for Allen Iverson and his accomplishments. We should also have sympathy for what he went through and where he came from. But we should also learn from every tragedy and the best words that Allen Iverson can use toward young black boys for the next 40 years are, “Don’t do what I did.” When we don’t honestly share stories like this one as valuable learning points for our children, we only find millions of other young black men repeating the Allen Iverson routine without the cushion of a $70 million dollar contract. My older brother/uncle lived this way until he died, and quite frankly, I’m just sick of it.
We should all take a note from the choices of Mr. Iverson. There is a lot for us to learn.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.”
Dr. Watkins appears with Dr. Umar Johnson and Grammy Award-winning rapper Killer Mike in the important film, “Elementary Genocide,” an exploration into how the school-to-prison pipeline is destroying young black children. Click here to watch the trailer for the film.
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