Basketball Hall of Famer Allen Iverson is one of the most iconic figures in basketball history. For the better part of the last 20-plus years, the longtime Philadelphia 76er and former Georgetown Hoya has been in the spotlight for his on and off the court activities.
Before he became the golden child in Philadelphia in the 2000’s, Iverson encountered what kind of banter and behavior Philadelphia fans have to offer during his time at Georgetown. The former Big East standout was beloved by the Georgetown faithful but was of course an archrival to Villanova.
Iverson recently went on “All the Smoke,” a sports podcast hosted by former NBA champions Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, to recount the story of a road matchup against Villanova in the old Pavilion.
“We were playing Villanova,” Iverson said. “A dude had a sign that said ‘Allen Iverson is the next MJ.’ It had MJ crossed out and it had ‘OJ.’ It was four dudes in the stands and they all had on four orange jumpsuits with chains and shackles…and coach Thompson was like, ‘No. If y’all don’t get them out of here, out of this gym right now, we’re not playing.’ And they escorted them out of there, and the game went on.”
As a junior in high school in 1993, Iverson was arrested and convicted on felony charges following a brawl in a bowling alley in Hampton, Va. The state of Virginia tried to convict Iverson on maiming by mob, but video surveillance showed Iverson leaving the scene shortly after the fight broke out.
After spending four months in a correctional facility in Newport News, Va., Iverson was granted clemency, and the conviction was overturned.
No matter where Iverson went, his reputation would precede him. Not his reputation of being one of the best basketball players in the Big East during his two years at Georgetown, but his reputation of being tried as an adult for a crime he did not commit and spending time in prison for it.
In any road matchup against a heated rival, players should definitely expect to catch some flak from an opposing crowd. Whether it be about their lack of skill in a certain area or their subpar performance during the game, some trash talk is expected. On that fateful night in the Pavilion, a line was crossed.
Crossing out the ‘M’ on the poster and making it an ‘O’ was a gut shot into a personal matter that concerns Iverson and Iverson only. On the contrary, when such a public person is involved in a publicized incident, everything is on the table for fans to use as ammunition to get into a player’s head.
The silver lining from all of this is that Villanova Athletics knew that changes needed to be made to not only protect its own student-athletes, but to protect all student-athletes who take part in competition in any Villanova facilities.
In the Finneran Pavilion A to Z Guide, there is an emphasis on making sure fans conduct themselves in an orderly manner. For example, one point is that disorderly conduct including “abusive language towards coaches, student-athletes, officials or spectators” is prohibited. In addition, the Fan Code of Conduct includes the prohibiting of “using/displaying foul or abusive language or gestures.”
In the case of Iverson more almost 25 years ago, the four Villanova fans were out of line. The fact that coach Thompson threatened to walk off the court if the four fans were not escorted out of the building says that something was wrong on Villanova’s end to allow that to happen.
Fast forward to the present day, and now there are rules and regulations in place to make sure that an incident like this will not happen at another Villanova basketball home game.