Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eastbound & Down

"Self-obsessed and self-destructive Kenny Powers went out on top in the end. The final episode of HBO’s comedy Eastbound & Down pulled in 899,000 viewers on Sunday at 10PM. The all-time series high for the show was its Season Two debut on September 26, 2010, which drew 1.677 million viewers."
When we first met Kenny Powers, four years and 28 chapters ago, he appeared more caricature than character: a couple catchphrases, a mullet, and two proudly erect middle fingers. As with many of the projects to vaporize out of the heads of Danny McBride and his frequent collaborators, there was a distinct eau de dorm room about the whole thing. McBride hated sports and had no idea how to throw a baseball, he just liked the idea of an unreconstructed dummy getting by on velocity and bullshit. Peacocking around in Kenny's cleats seemed like a promising way to get him and his buddies paid for giggling about their favorite things: Southern suburban malaise, herculean drug use, and cursing in front of children.

Let me be clear: I would have had no trouble with Eastbound & Down had its lone storytelling goal been to make stoners laugh until they sneezed Cheeto dust. Plenty of sitcoms aspire to much less. But the hunger for greatness burning inside Kenny Powers began as more than mere munchies in the minds of his creators. Jody Hill and fellow director pal David Gordon Green had visions of cinematic grandeur, treating each half-hour installment as a mini-movie, replete with the beats and bumps of a '70s blockbuster. And with the goateed, hyper-verbal K.P., McBride created the perfect avatar for his louche precision. (Nobody delivers gassy nonsense with the delicacy and rigor of McBride. He's like a Swiss whoopee cushion.) Thanks to their efforts, Eastbound crossed over from making fun of its hyper-specific milieu to having fun with it. That first season, in which a humbled Kenny, exiled from baseball, returns home to work as a substitute teacher and wrestle with the twin shackles of failure and humiliation, managed to be that rarest of flowers: something that celebrates the very thing it's satirizing. In McBride and Hill's hands, a lonely Jet Ski ride was imbued with pathos, not pity. It was funny because it was sad, sure, but that's the easy part. It was also sad because it was so terrifically funny.

The subsequent seasons had their moments — particularly any moments that involved Will Ferrell's plum-grabbing albino Ashley Schaeffer or "La Flama Blanca" on the mound — but they tended to veer into silliness and abstraction the farther they strayed from the show's home base of Shelby, North Carolina. Kenny's larger-than-life personality works better when it's tethered to a highly specific existence. The stakes may have been greater in the wilds of Mexico or the neon glow of Myrtle Beach, but to me Kenny's puffery always seemed diminished by the larger world. The show was essentially about squaring one's past with one's present, and the time it spent with Kenny as he chased after an impossible, fastball-throwing future was rarely as rewarding as the year he spent chasing after April Buchanon.

Thanks to a return to Shelby, this fourth and final season was a revelation. Not many shows get better as they get older; most, like Kenny rubbing up on April at Cutler's BBQ way back when, shoot their wad early and are unable to recover. And yet, like Breaking Bad, that other great series about resentment, chemicals, and profoundly screwy father-son relationships that ended in 2013, Eastbound found a new gear as it hurtled into the homestretch. Kenny Powers the baseball player was gone, his vision of himself as a "handsome white Jesus" was fading. Married to April and the proud-ish father of two, he was, in the immortal words of Henry Hill, just another schnook living in Middle America. The brilliance of this final season was the way it took one of TV's constant, frustrating obsessions — the suffering of the average white male — and recast it as something more interesting and self-aware. Kenny wasn't so much raging against the dying of the light as he was furious about relinquishing the possibility of darkness. The game-day uniform may have been hung up in the closet, but all the other outward signifiers of his invented identity remained: the slicked hair, the puke-green sports car, the swimming pool, the rosin-bag-size stash of coke. Who was Kenny Powers if he wasn't allowed to break bad? He was a wolf, not a domesticated bichon. You couldn't keep him chained up in a tract house forever.

Last night brought the series to a close on an ecstatic, deeply satisfying high. (And Eastbound knows from the other kind of high. Just ask Jason Sudeikis's Shane.) After trashing Christmas and watching his best friend shoot off his prosthetic chin — it's been four long seasons of jaw-dropping grotesqueries for Steve Little; he deserves a vacation and some comprehensive therapy — Kenny finally seemed to learn that being the bigger man isn't always the same thing as being the biggest man. He trapped Dakota and returned him to the kids. He gifted a robot to the Janowskis. All that was left to do in "Chapter 29" was to make peace with April and, more importantly, with himself. Doing so involved squaring off against the latest (and, I suppose, last) in a line of swinging-dick antagonists, though Sacha Baron Cohen's Ronnie Thelman, a giant prick who showed us his own in the teaser, was by far the most literal. The owner of the network that broadcasts Sports Sesh, Ronnie arrives with Jerome, his "friend's son," in tow, with the sole purpose of transforming Kenny from star to superstar. After past successes turning Ellen into a lesbian and Ryan Seacrest straight, Ronnie gives Kenny his own show (The Powers Hour) and a mandate: Get Guy Young onto the set with the promise of forgiveness and then do the same thing to him that Jerome did to the fat guy in the blue shirt.

That Eastbound was steering itself toward a profoundly conventional ending — man learns to appreciate family — wasn't a surprise. The unconventional path it took to get there was well worth it. Baron Cohen — drink in hand, cold sore on lip — assassinated his scenes, but, in her own way, so, too, did Katy Mixon, a lioness in a push-up bra. Kenny's sober — well, quasi-sober; it's not like he's gonna say no to one of Stevie's vikes — on-set admission of all the pooches he's screwed was a long time coming. But Kenny's neatest trick was the way the relative tidiness of the resolution still left room for his messy genius. The extended, invented screenplay coda was outrageous and hilarious; it felt like a game of insanity Jenga built higher than the sun. In Kenny's perfect ending, his children grow up to be Alexander Skarsgard and Lindsay Lohan, his mullet goes gray, and April is gunned down, Martha Wayne–style, by random burglars. After bottoming out on skid row skag, he cleans up, moves to Africa, grows a long white beard, and gratefully enjoys a second act spent conversing in click dialect and sowing multiple seeds. Upon his death, Stevie and the children remove his ashes from a space crystal, with Stevie rubbing some on his gums, and toss them into the heavens.

It was a garish fantasy and it was ludicrous; it was deeply affecting and kind of perfect. In actuality, Kenny Powers's final chapter remains unwritten. At episode's end, he's living with his family in Santa Fe, Kokopellis on the walls, MacBook on his desk. There's no need for a blooper reel. The last thing we see him do, before we, the audience, go apeshit, is put down the baseball. It was touching that one of the most remarkable cultural creations of the last few years didn't go out in a blaze of glory or a blast of hot shame. He was simply placed back on the shelf, in a better place than where we found him. Though his dreams stayed twinkling in the wide sky above the savanna, it was clear he no longer needed them to survive reality. The traditional hero's journey traces the evolution of a man into a legend. Eastbound & Down, by contrast, told the story of a legend who eventually became a man.

More information:
» Grantland: A Visit to the Set of Eastbound & Down

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Francis and the Lights - "Like a Dream" (2013)

Francis and the Lights have already shared two out-of-this-world R&B cuts from the upcoming Like a Dream EP: "ETC" and "If They Don't Come Tomorrow." Now, main brain Francis Farewell Starlite — a former Drake tourmate and collaborator — has let go a third by way of a new music video. The visual for "Like a Dream" boasts direction from Jake Schreier, ex-Francis and the Lights keyboardist and filmmaker behind 2012's Robot & Frank, which features an original score by Starlite's piano-pop project.

Starlite may get his answer after November 25, when London label Good Years Recordings drops the Like a Dream EP. For now, pre-order the four-track collection through iTunes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

(L) Virginia Tech vs. Maryland

"Senior linebacker Jack Tyler was one of 10 players named as semifinalists for the 2013 Burlsworth Trophy, given annually to the most outstanding college football player who began his career as a walk-on. The original list had 53 players on it. Tyler, a walk-on from Oakton, has started all 11 games this year and leads the Hokies with 89 tackles. Tyler’s Oakton High teammate, Trey Watts of Tulsa, is also a semifinalist for the award. Watts is second in the Conference USA in rushing with 1,026 yards."
Washington Post:
While Maryland Coach Randy Edsall and his players streamed onto the Lane Stadium turf, in delirium over quarterback C.J. Brown’s game-winning overtime touchdown, Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle was decidedly less enthused.

Lined up across the formation, he could do little to prevent Brown’s leap toward the pylon and simply unhooked his chin strip and trudged back down the Hokies sideline Saturday. As he did so, though, Gayle glanced toward midfield and witnessed a senior day celebration he never saw coming.

“Honestly, it really made me mad because it’s a game we kind of let go,” Gayle said after the Hokies’ 27-24 overtime loss to Maryland. “Their defense outplayed our defense at the end of the day. . . . It’s definitely hard to swallow.”

This was a common refrain once Virginia Tech began to come to grips with its first senior day loss since 2003, a defeat that could allow a golden opportunity to win the ACC’s Coastal Division slip through its grasp. A week after their most impressive showing to date in a resounding 42-24 win at Miami, the Hokies (7-4, 4-3) regressed in all phases of the game Saturday against an injury-riddled team they were favored to beat by more than two touchdowns.

The most shocking development, though, was that their vaunted defense couldn’t seem to corral Brown, who “was running all over the field on us,” Gayle said. Coach Frank Beamer even questioned his team’s readiness for Saturday’s game based on the bevy of missed tackles that ultimately sprang Brown for many of his long runs.

He accounted for 257 of Maryland’s 319 yards, including 122 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It’s the second-most yards one player has gained on the ground against the Hokies this season, and comes just one week after Brown had three turnovers and five rushing yards in a loss to Syracuse.

The Terrapins (6-4, 2-4) arrived at Lane Stadium for Senior Day having lost four of five, but scored three consecutive touchdowns to open a commanding 21-7 lead, then held on after the Hokies pulled even with 9:32 to play in regulation. In the overtime, the Terps limited Virginia Tech to a field goal, then needed just four plays to cover the 25 yards, with Brown fittingly finishing it.

Virginia Tech players noted Brown didn’t even look to throw the ball for most of the game.

“We just didn’t tackle very well. That’ll get you beat in just about any game,” senior linebacker Jack Tyler said. “Obviously, it was pretty awful to watch. We worked our butts off all week to get this win. We needed it. We just didn’t do enough to get it.”

The offense, though, was far from immune. A week after piling up a season-high 549 yards at Miami, the Hokies mustered just 264 yards Saturday. They gained 111 yards on their first three drives, but averaged just 2.9 yards per play after that and went 4 of 16 on third down conversions for the game.

By the time he reached the podium, Beamer had already turned his focus to the Hokies’ regular season finale at Virginia in two weeks and their upcoming bowl game. But as unlikely as it sounds, Virginia Tech still has an outside shot at qualifying for the ACC championship game. If the Hokies beat the Cavaliers, they could potentially win a multi-team tiebreaker because two of their three conference losses came against Atlantic Division opponents.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gilbert Arenas is Playing in China, Won't Return to NBA

"Since signing the contract, Arenas has struggled with knee problems, set a franchise record for most turnovers in a game (12), brought guns to the locker room, was suspended by the NBA for 50 games, faked injury in a preseason game and was traded to Orlando, where he averaged a mere 8 PPG. It has been a spectacular fall from grace."
Bleacher Report:
Gilbert Arenas hasn't played in the NBA for more than a season now, but he's still drawing a hefty paycheck from the Orlando Magic.

This was all set in motion back in 2010 when the Magic and the Washington Wizards took part in the worst trade in the history of the NBA.The Magic sent Rashard Lewis to Washington in exchange for Arenas and the deal was done.

It wasn't that one side was getting fleeced; it was just that either team was essentially swapping $130 million worth of cap fodder, because people can change, I guess. Arenas played all of 49 games in Orlando, while Lewis played 60 in Washington before he was traded away again.

In order to shave the remaining $62 million off their books after the 2011 lockout, the Magic decided to use their amnesty provision on Arenas roughly nine seconds after it was afforded to them. That meant the Magic wouldn't get the privilege of watching Agent Zero launch three-pointers and shoot 34 percent from the field over the course of the next three years.

Eventually the Memphis Grizzlies made a claim on him near the end of the 2012 season. He played in just 17 games for the Grizzlies, saving Orlando a few thousand bucks in the process. After the season ended, the three-time All-Star called it quits—well, as far as the NBA is concerned, that is.

Arenas hoofed it over to China last season, where he played with the Shanghai Sharks, all while still getting paid $20,807,922 by the Magic. At the very least, the Magic were paying a productive player; he averaged 20.7 points on 50 percent shooting in his 14 games with the Sharks.

So that brings us to this season, one which Arenas will likely spend with no affiliation to the NBA whatsoever. Between the end of October until the Magic (likely) miss the playoffs in mid-May, they'll be sending checks over to Arenas totaling $22,346,536.

Just three other NBA players are making more than Arenas will make next season: Dirk Nowitzki clocks in just under $400,000 more than Gilbert, while Kobe Bryant's salary approaches $30.5 million.

For a quick comparison, Chandler Parsons, who is on one of the most valuable contracts in the league, will make just $926,500 this season. He'll rake in a tad over four percent of what Arenas will make.

In fact, if he were to attempt an NBA comeback, the veteran minimum for a player who has been in the league for more than 10 seasons is just $1.3 million. Whichever team he would sign with would be responsible for that portion of his contract, meaning the Magic would only have to pay him around $21 million. What a steal.

Since the NBA's current collective bargaining agreement was put in place in 1999, only five players have signed larger total contracts than Gilbert Arenas (six years, $111 million) agreed to in 2008. Here's a look:

Largest Total Contracts in NBA Since 1999
Player Year Signed Total
Kobe Bryant 2004 $136.4M
Jermaine O'Neal 2003 $126.6M
Rashard Lewis 2007 $126M
Chris Webber 2001 $122.7M
Tim Duncan 2003 $122M
Gilbert Arenas 2008 $111M

More information:
» 16 Ridiculous Ways Gilbert Arenas Spends His Money
» Washington Post 2006: "The Psychic Scars That Shaped an NBA Star"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

(W) Virginia Tech at Miami

Hampton Roads:
Cross another record off Logan Thomas' to-do list.

The Virginia Tech senior quarterback moved into first place on the Hokies' career passing touchdown list with a 32-yard strike to Josh Stanford in the second quarter against Miami at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday.

It was the 49th touchdown pass of Thomas' career, breaking a tie with Bryan Randall, who threw for 48 from 2001-04.

Stanford made most of the play happen, catching a pass on an underneath route on third-and-17, slipping past a few tackles and sprinting up the sideline for the touchdown, sprung by Willie Byrn's block. It gave Tech a 28-14 lead at the time.

It simply added to Thomas' long list of school records. Entering Saturday, he already was Tech's career record holder in completions (633), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (24), total offense (9,463) and passing yards (8,152).

Thomas made his 37th consecutive start at quarterback Saturday, one shy of Randall's 38-game school record.

Ground game gets going
Trey Edmunds ran for three first-half touchdowns, the first Tech tailback with three in a game since David Wilson did so against Appalachian State in the 2011 opener.

Edmunds scored on runs of 10, 2 and 4 yards, an efficient effort. He only had six first-half carries for 34 yards. Edmunds had five rushing touchdowns entering the day. Only two of those had come in ACC play, however.

The redshirt freshman did it in what is the home stadium for the Miami Dolphins. Edmunds' father, Ferrell, played five seasons with the Dolphins as a tight end, although never in Sun Life Stadium.

Laurence Gibson
Laurence Gibson started in place of Brent Benedict at right tackle, returning to the spot at which he started the year. Benedict had his right foot in a walking boot for most of the week and didn't practice after suffering an ankle injury last weekend.

Gibson, a junior who started at right tackle against Alabama and Western Carolina to start the year, got the call. Benedict seized the starting job in Week 3 against East Carolina, with Gibson subbing in occasionally.

Kyle Fuller
After a groin injury ended his consecutive games streak at 49 at Boston College last week, senior Kyle Fuller started at cornerback Saturday night. Fuller, who was probable, played only special teams against Duke two weeks ago before sitting out to let the injury heal.

He and fellow senior Antone Exum were the Hokies' starting corners for the first time this year. Exum was making only his third appearance since coming back from offseason ACL surgery, although he had to leave briefly in the second quarter with a left ankle injury.

It was the first time this year that freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller hasn't started, either as a regular cornerback or a nickelback, although he still got plenty of playing time.

Offensively, receiver Willie Byrn played through a tailbone injury that made him questionable coming in. He didn't start but had three catches for 29 yards in the first half, in addition to a strong block on Stanford's touchdown catch.

Deon Clarke
Backup linebacker Deon Clarke did not travel with the team for Saturday's game. Virginia Tech's sports information staff did not have a specific reason for his absence.

Clarke, a redshirt freshman, is the top backup backer behind Tariq Edwards. He served a one-game suspension against Duke two weeks ago for an unspecified violation of a team rule. But he traveled with the team last week to Boston College and made two special teams tackles.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Best New Music

Zac Brown Band - "Day for the Dead"

According to Hitfix's sources, Zac Brown Band have enlisted no less a rock statesman than Dave Grohl to produce their next album. In the meantime, the Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman sat in on jaunty new Brown song "Day for the Dead" at the Country Music Awards show last night (November 6).

Crosses - "Bitches Brew"

Northern California hard rock beacon and Deftones leader Chino Moreno never forgot about ††† (or Crosses). He promised that the electronics-powered project would return this year, and now it has. Moreno and his partners in Crosses — Far's Shaun Lopez, and Chuck Doom — are prepping their eponymous debut album for a February 11 release. The 15-track set will include earlier works EP † and EP ††, plus five additional songs.

Doug Tuttle - "Turn This Love"

Until very recently, Doug Tuttle played guitar for New Hampshire psych crew MMOSS, who called it quits earlier this year. Now, the six-string wizard has gone solo, with plans to unleash his self-titled debut album on January 28, through Trouble in Mind Records. In advance of the upcoming 11-track LP, Tuttle is offering "Turn This Love," a six-minute jam that bleeds together hazy organ drones and melodic vocal sighs before being taken over by silly-putty guitar heroics.

Yes I'm Leaving - "Four Chorder"

Yes I'm Leaving are a trio of sludge-loving punks from Sydney, Australia, and their new album Mission Bulb is a nasty mass of angst, grind, sweat, and shred. Above you'll find a perfectly named song, "Four Chorder," which is, naturally, constructed from four gnarled note-stacks that do their thing over and over again while main man Billy Burke alternately warbles and screams his dark observations.

Vadaat Charigim's The World is Well Lost

It's handy enough to think of Vadaat Charigim as the "Israeli shoegaze band," but that's also unfairly reductive. Sure, there are bendy guitars and walls of fuzz — just listen to their debut album The World Is Well Lost above — but you'll also find the springy sound of Slumberland Records, and the vocal swoon of Morrissey mixed up with the punk-punk'ed hum of Ian Curtis. And sure, this trio is from Tel Aviv, but they're perfectly at home on California cassette bastion Burger Records, who'll release the record on November 12.

DZ Deathrays - "Northern Lights"

DZ Deathrays are planning to hit the studio in December and January to record the bulk of their upcoming sophomore album, due sometime in the first half of 2014. But first, the Australian duo — composed of alt-rock disciples Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley — are offering "Northern Lights," the lead single from their next full-length. Produced by Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine, the Horrors, Sigur Rós), the first glimpse at the follow-up to last year's Bloodstreams is a cavernous epic, filled with slabs of guitar and hollering backup vocals.

Destroyer - "Bye Bye"

Destroyer returns on November 25 with Five Spanish Songs — the Vancouver rock experimentalist's unexpected en español follow-up to his wooly soft-jazz full-band 2011 effort Kaputt. Last month we heard the T. Rex-channeling electric stomper "El Rito" and now, thanks to Stereogum, we have the video for the far quieter "Bye Bye." For this project, Dan Bejar is exclusively playing the music of Sr. Chinarro songwriter Antonio Luque.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tom Wilson's First Assist and Goal in 6-2 Win Over Islanders

Through 14 games and 100 minutes on ice, Tom Wilson had yet to score an NHL point. The rookie class had started to blow by him. But Wilson had been making the most of his limited ice-time. In the Capitals’ 6-2 win over the Islanders on Tuesday night, Wilson’s hard work finally paid off.

Wilson recorded his first NHL assist in the second period. In the third, he scored his first NHL goal.

So kind of a big night for the 19-year-old.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

(L) Virginia Tech at Boston College

On a day that he threw for a career-high in passing yards, tied Bryan Randall’s school passing touchdown record and broke Tyrod Taylor’s school mark for total offense, it was oh so fitting that erratic Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas also did things that led to the Hokies’ demise.

The polarizing senior simultaneously kept Virginia Tech in the ballgame Saturday and gave it away, throwing for a career-high 391 yards but also committing four second-half turnovers in the Hokies’ 34-27 loss to Boston College at Alumni Stadium.

It was enough to send the spiraling Hokies (6-3, 3-2 ACC), once thought to be in great position in the Coastal Division, on a path to their second straight loss to underdog opponents.

“I think our football team is in a little bit of a funk,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said.

Thomas’ last completion of the first half, a 14-yarder to tight end Kalvin Cline, moved him past Tyrod Taylor for first place on Virginia Tech’s all-time list for total offense. Thomas now has 9,463 career yards to Taylor’s 9,213.

He also tied Bryan Randall’s school record by throwing his 47th and 48th career touchdown passes. Thomas previously set the Hokies’ school records in completions, rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and passing yards.

But his 28 interceptions the last two years are also second most by a Hokies quarterback in a two-year stretch to Don Strock‘s 46 (in 1971 and ’72).

Josh Stanford, meanwhile, had six catches for a career-high 171 yards Saturday, the second most ever by a Hokies receiver in a losing effort under Beamer.

Cody Journell booted a career-long 56-yard field goal just before halftime that tied the longest in the NCAA this season. It tied for the third-longest field goal in Virginia Tech history and was the longest during Beamer’s tenure, topping Shayne Graham’s 53-yarder against Clemson in 1998.

Boston College running back Andre Williams ran for 166 yards on 33 carries, scoring on a 62-yard touchdown late. It gives him an ACC-best 1,176 rushing yards this year.

It was the most rushing yards the Hokies have given up to a single running back in 15 games, dating back to Giovani Bernard’s 262-yard day for North Carolina last year.

The Hokies, who entered the day tied for second nationally in sacks and 12th in turnovers forced, didn’t record a sack or a turnover Saturday. The last time that happened was at Miami last season.

Chase Rettig completed 11-of-14 passes for 93 yards and a score to help the Eagles (6-3, 3-2 ACC) end a two-game slide.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Spotlight: Allen "The Answer" Iverson

Although he hasn't played in a game in close to four years, Allen Iverson officially announced his retirement at a press conference in Philadelphia. “It was a blessing,” he said. “It was a blessing to even get here to a point where I could retire. To play one game in the NBA — to play two. I’ve won scoring titles, MVPs, been First-Team All NBA. I’ve done a lot. I’m 160 pounds soaking wet from Newport News, Virginia. What more can I ask for?”
"The city he played in, Philadelphia, loved him for his passion. His teams won. He brought home scoring titles, led his team to six playoff series victories and dragged a motley crew of role players to the NBA Finals. And, for better or worse, he brought his people with him. No matter how silly it was to support dozens of people, or how selfishly Iverson handled his role in a team sport, he'd reached places that once seemed impossible for him."
Allen Iverson – who has earned over $154 million in salary alone over his stellar NBA career — is reportedly broke. That number excludes millions more in non-salary income, including a $50 million lifetime endorsement contract from Reebok. And the player best known as “the Answer” has no easy answer for the bills, including around $859,000 he currently owes to a Georgia jewelry store (too bad he didn’t have Newt’s credit line at Tiffany’s). Whether Iverson can’t or won’t pay Aydin and Company Jewelers is unclear. Moreover, there is no evidence that Iverson has officially declared bankruptcy. But Iverson’s seemingly desperate attempts at a comeback suggest that he’s in deep financial trouble.

For instance, he made the Iverson equivalent of pilaf to play in Turkey and was offered plantains to play in Puerto Rico. Now comes an insulting offer to play indoor soccer for the Rochester Lancers. It’s a sad and shameful denouement for a man who, pound-for-pound on his six foot, 165-pound frame, is the most gifted and fearless guard to ever play pro basketball.

Most sports fans saw this day coming. Some will point to Iverson’s role in a controversial bowling alley brawl in Hampton, Virginia back when Iverson was in high school. Though Iverson ended up serving four months in prison for the crime, Georgetown coach John Thompson — in his defining Lawrence Phillips moment — overlooked the incident in recruiting Iverson, and Virginia governor Doug Wilder eventually granted Iverson clemency.

Fairly or unfairly, the affair tainted Iverson’s reputation and telegraphed his later troubles, which reportedly included missed practices, refusal to train, and frequent disputes with coaches. And that’s just basketball-related behavior. Iverson’s troubles also included a 1997 arrest for carrying a concealed weapon (for which he pleaded No Contest and was sentenced to community service) and a later 2002 arrest (though never convicted) for trespassing, criminal conspiracy, false imprisonment, and making terroristic threats. There were at least two cases of assault by Iverson bodyguards, including a vicious one in 2006 by Jason Kane (as Iverson idly watched), for which Iverson had to pay victim Marlin Godfrey $260,000 in damages for injuries he suffered, including a torn rotator cuff, a concussion, a ruptured eardrum, and a burst blood vessel in his eye. The judgment was upheld on appeal in 2009. Finally, there was Iverson’s banishment from casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City.

In the public’s mind, rightly or wrongly, these incidents built an image of Iverson as reckless and ungovernable on and off the court. So, it comes as no surprise to many that he was reckless and ungovernable in his finances. “He redefined high maintenance,” said Pat Croce, Philadelphia 76ers team president and part-owner during the Iverson era.

Iverson attended Bethel High School and was a dual-sport athlete; he earned the Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both football and basketball, and won the Division AAA Virginia state championship in both sports. After high school, Iverson attended Georgetown University for two years, where he set the school record for career scoring average (22.9 points per game) and won Big East Defensive Player of the Year awards both years.

Following two successful years at Georgetown, Iverson declared eligibility for the 1996 NBA Draft, and was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number one pick. He was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in the 1996–97 season. Iverson is an eleven-time NBA All-Star which includes winning the All-Star MVP award in 2001 and 2005.

Winning the NBA scoring title during the 1998–99, 2000–01, 2001–02 and 2004–05 seasons, Iverson was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, despite his small stature (listed at 6 feet, 0 inches). His regular season career scoring average of 26.7 points per game ranks sixth all-time, and his playoff career scoring average of 29.7 points per game is second only to Michael Jordan. Iverson was also the NBA Most Valuable Player of the 2000–01 season and led his team to the 2001 NBA Finals the same season. Iverson represented the United States at the 2004 Summer Olympics, winning the bronze medal. He also played for the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and the Memphis Grizzlies, before returning to the 76ers for part of the 2009–10 season.

Washington Post:
During Iverson’s prime, teammates accepted Iverson’s unique style, be it hangovers during some practices or his trademark single-arm sleeve. His response to a question in 2002 about missing workouts became iconic: “We’re talking about practice.”

Basketball was Iverson’s sanctuary, and he signed huge contracts: a six-year deal in 1999 worth $70.9 million and, four years later, a new agreement worth $76.7 million. Reebok signed him to a huge endorsement deal, including a deferred trust worth more than $30 million, a lump sum he can’t touch until he turns 55.

Iverson feuded in 2006 with the Sixers, who removed his likeness from the Wells Fargo Center before trading him to the Denver Nuggets, who later traded him to Detroit. When he became a free agent in ‘09, teams were reluctant to sign him.

In November 2009, Iverson played in three games with the Memphis Grizzles before being released, and the Sixers brought him back for 25 games. In his final NBA appearance, Feb. 20, 2010, he scored 13 points in a 32-point loss to the Chicago Bulls. His career ended abruptly, without closure.

"Iverson was the star the league got without asking for it. While nearly every player with a little star power and lots of polish was anointed "the next Michael Jordan," Iverson became MJ's successor at the NBA's forefront without his sophistication but dripping with the same edgy charisma that made Jordan so magnetic."

More information:
» 2002: Iverson Faces Felony Charges
» 2012: Iverson's Wages Garnished to Pay Jewelry Bill
» Sports Illustrated: "How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke"
» Philly News: "Iverson in Istanbul"