Home > Sports > NBA: Review – No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

NBA: Review – No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

April 13, 2010

Since the day the 30 for 30 series was announced, this was the film I’d been waiting for. How could it not be great? Steve James — most famous for Hoop Dreams — returns to his Virginia roots to look at the trial of Allen Iverson. (The trailer for the film is embedded below).

I suspect many basketball fans in their 20s — like me — only knew the fuzzy edges of the Iverson story. Something happened in a bowling alley, he went away for a while, but wound up playing at Georgetown, went on to be the No. 1 pick and it was all kind of history. To know those fuzzy edges is only to grasp a very small part of the story.

The Iverson story is really one about an entire community divided along racial lines. In many ways, it has less to do with Iverson than the people surrounding him on all sides. That’s why, to some degree, it’s appropriate that Allen Iverson didn’t even agree to be interviewed for the film. This thing clocks in at roughly 90 minutes as is, so how would a long sit-down interview with Iverson influence the length, the cuts and the content as a whole? (James went on Bill Simmons’ 30 for 30 podcast and, among other things, discussed that topic. He also spent a great deal of time on the back end of the podcast talking about Hoop Dreams. It’s a good listen and you can check it out on iTunes through this link.)

Listening to the interviews about the incident, the arrest and everything else in the film, sometimes you’re left to wonder whether the people in the film are even talking about the same events. While much of the white community — most often associated with Hampton High — wanted a strict letter-of-the-law ruling — the Bethel crowd — mostly black — wanted to be assured Iverson would get a fair trial. Whether that happened doesn’t even really appear up for debate. Why, as a 17-year-old, was Iverson charged as an adult in this incident? There was certainly a perception about Iverson, that he could get away with things like missing school or running with a certain crowd, but he didn’t have a criminal record. So why was he not only charged as an adult, but also denied bail? Sure, eventually the conviction was overturned, by if you go through that kind of thing as a 17-year-old, you’ve been changed. Conspiracy theories abound about why this happened, but I don’t want to spell those all out in this space, because they range from absurd to believable, so I’d rather not color your judgment with my own.

Eric Freeman is spending some time today on The Baseline talking about Hampton and the community, so I don’t want to steal too much of his thunder on that front. But this really isn’t a film about basketball or Iverson’s athletic exploits, so don’t go in expecting that. That isn’t to say there isn’t some great vintage Iverson footage. In addition to some of the football footage you’ve seen on YouTube, you also get some footage of Iverson on the basketball court at Bethel. The best footage in the film of a young Iverson isn’t in football or basketball, but rather him receiving his degree in a small, private ceremony among family and friends. I’m not sure that’s an Iverson a lot of people know or have ever seen.

The other component to the film is Steve James’ relationship with the Hampton community, where he played high school ball. (He notes he came up just a weebit short of Iverson’s high school accolades.) Even James, someone with a line into the community, had a hard time getting people to speak with him. You could understand Iverson’s reluctance to be involved, particularly given what he’s reportedly been going through off the court, but blacks on Iverson’s side and his white accusers almost unanimously turned down opportunities to throw in their two cents. Even though it’s been 17 years, perhaps there was a concern that putting all of it back out there on the table again would ignite racial fires that took years to douse when they first started.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Also, head over to The Baseline and read Eric Freeman’s thoughts on the film

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