According to multiple NBA sources, there is widespread concern that the four-time NBA scoring champion, who left the Philadelphia 76ers in February to deal with his daughter’s illness and will not return this season, “will either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away,” Smith reported.
Iverson’s gambling problem is serious enough that he has been banished from casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City, N.J., according to Smith.
The report comes as Iverson is dealing with significant personal problems.
Iverson’s wife Tawana filed for divorce on March 4, the same day the Philadelphia 76ers announced that the All-Star guard would not return for the rest of the season. In the divorce filing, made at Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Tawana Iverson said the couple’s 8½-year marriage is “irretrievably broken” and sought full custody of the family’s five children, child support and alimony.
Iverson, who played 25 games for the Sixers this season, returned to Atlanta in February to be with his family and deal with an undisclosed illness affecting his 4-year-old daughter, Messiah.
Smith, who has covered Iverson closely for years, wrote in Monday’s column that Iverson needs someone with “the ideal combination of compassion and toughness” in his life. And former Temple coach John Chaney said that person is John Thompson, Iverson’s former college coach at Georgetown.
“[Thompson] is the one guy who’ll have a chance of slowing this train wreck down, who could wrap his arms around Iverson and have an impact, because clearly it has not been done,” Chaney said, according to Smith. “But there’s still this one question: Will [Iverson] listen?”
Iverson started the season with the Memphis Grizzlies but only played three games, amid disagreements over playing time, before announcing a short-lived retirement. He signed the 76ers as a free agent in December, making a tearful return to the city where he spent his first 10½ seasons, won four scoring titles, earned the 2000-01 MVP award and led the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals.
Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2006 and played for the Nuggets through 2008, when he was dealt to the Detroit Pistons.
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