Just days ago, Allen Iverson's career took a turn for the worse. Now, the same can be said about his life.
At a time when the Iversons' 4-year-old daughter, Messiah, continues to suffer from an undisclosed illness, Tawanna Iverson took steps to end an 8-year marriage with the former superstar for the 76ers. She filed for divorce Tuesday in Fulton County (Ga.) Superior Court.
The divorce petition said the marriage was "irretrievably broken," that Iverson and his wife are separated, and that Tawanna Iverson wants to retain custody of their five children.
Iverson was unavailable for comment. The Sixers announced Tuesday that the former all-star would not return this season because he is dealing with his daughter's illness.
"This is going to be another situation where something difficult that has happened in his life takes away from all of his accomplishments and everything he stood for," said Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown, who coached Iverson with the Sixers. "That, to me, is the saddest thing of all."
The divorce proceedings are the latest development in the deterioration of Iverson's personal and professional lives:
According to several NBA sources with knowledge of the situation, Iverson has been troubled by excessive drinking.
His legal problems include a number of civil lawsuits.
Iverson's once-brilliant basketball career is probably finished, before many had expected. At 34, he is left to ponder his future.
The Iversons have known each other since their junior high school days in Virginia. Their youngest child is 17 months; the oldest is 15.
Iverson often mentioned that his wife, Tawanna, was there "with him and for him" since the bowling alley brawl that left him incarcerated for four months as a teenager in the early 1990s. She was with him during two seasons at Georgetown and throughout a 14-year career in the NBA, where he won four scoring titles and generated more than $200 million in earnings.
Tawanna Iverson has hired John C. Mayoue, a renowned family-law attorney in the Atlanta area who has represented Chris Rock, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Jane Fonda, among other celebrities.
Her decision to file for a divorce at this time has brought an unwanted spotlight on Iverson, who missed 13 games with the Sixers before leaving the team for good. Several NBA team officials contacted yesterday voiced the opinion that Iverson's career is over.
A spectacle in many ways
Iverson was a headline grabber from the moment he arrived in Philadelphia as the No. 1 overall pick in 1996. His quickness, ballhandling skills and electrifying scoring ability, however, were always matched by his do-it-my-way mentality.
There were problems with nearly every coach he had, from Brown to Randy Ayers and Chris Ford. When he ultimately had differences with coach Mo Cheeks - the point guard for the last Sixers championship team in 1983 - Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets in December 2006.
And there was a litany of legal issues trailing Iverson.
In 1997, Iverson was arrested on misdemeanor charges of marijuana and gun-possession in Virginia. That resulted in a plea bargain that carried three-years probation.
He made a rap CD in 2000 with lyrics that embarrassed the Sixers.
His most notorious legal incident occurred in 2002 when an allegation was made that Iverson barged into a West Philadelphia apartment and threatened two men with a gun while looking for his wife, resulting in terroristic threats charges. The case drew national attention as a media stakeout of Iverson's Gladwyne home turned circus-like. Charges in that case were dropped by then-Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham primarily because the victims in the case were unwilling to testify.
That incident also brought to light possible fissures in the relationship between Allen and Tawanna Iverson. There were rumors that Iverson had thrown his wife out of the house naked, which she subsequently denied in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News.
At times, Iverson appeared to be the object of criminal intentions. In 2003, an associate of Iverson's was shot in the leg in Old City and at one point, police said they believed Iverson may have been targeted as well.
In 2005, Iverson was hit with a lawsuit when two men claimed that Iverson's bodyguard beat them in a Washington D.C. nightclub when they resisted leaving a VIP area for Iverson, and he stood by idly. In the end, one of the men was awarded $260,000.
Throughout his NBA career, Iverson has displayed a well-known appetite for nightlife.
One NBA source said yesterday that when Iverson was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Detroit Pistons in 2008, "he practically lived in the casinos." Numerous sources said he was banned from two of the three casinos in Detroit.
"Drinking and the casinos: Allen was always doing one thing, or was at the other," an Eastern Conference executive said last night. "No one who knows him can deny it."
Clashes with coaches
Iverson ultimately was traded from Philadelphia because his relationship with Cheeks had soured. Then everything else began to fall apart.
Denver's coach, George Karl did not want him anymore because he needed a point guard and felt that "Iverson had lost a step." Then there was Iverson's one-year experience in Detroit, where he lamented his lack of playing time, questioned whether first-year coach Michael Curry knew was he doing, and ultimately was perceived as quitting on the Pistons.
Curry was fired at the end of that season.
Iverson landed in Memphis, where Lionel Hollins played him sparingly after "The Answer" missed training camp this fall. It took a matter of days before Iverson cursed his new coach on the team bus, according to league sources.
Then Iverson returned for his ill-fated second stint in Philadelphia.
Originally, the player's absence from the team revolved around his daughter, then injuries.
Last week, after Iverson had left the Sixers to tend to his daughter, he was seen at the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament in Charlotte, N.C., purportedly for a fund-raising commitment.
"I love the guy," Brown said yesterday. "We might have had arguments, but at the end of the day, he tried for me and cared for me in his own way. He maybe was as important a player as we've ever had in the game; because wherever I went, folks didn't know who the hell I was, but they knew I was Allen Iverson's coach. That meant a great deal to me.
"All these young kids idolized him. Like me, they loved his courage. So it's a tragic thing to me to know he's going through this because he's had a wonderful life and wonderful kids and a phenomenal career."
Iverson's business manager, Gary Moore, addressed the player's latest troubles yesterday.
"We'll eventually issue a statement, probably around Monday or Tuesday, maybe before," Moore said. "I don't know. For now, though, just pray for us. Please pray for us. We need all the prayers we can get."
Contact staff writer Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846.