Generously listed at six feet tall, Allen Iverson’s relentlessly aggressive play on the basketball court propelled him to superstar status in the National Basketball Association. But in the world of gambling, his trademark tenacity and unwillingness to stand down in the face of a fight were not as well-received, resulting in Iverson being banned from multiple casinos for unsavory behavior.
Allen Ezail Iverson was born in Hampton, Virginia on June 7th, 1975. By the time he attended Bethel High School, it was clear that Iverson possessed superior athletic talents. As the starting point guard for the basketball team, as well as starting quarterback in football, Iverson led both squads to state championships in both sports in 1992 as just a junior. That year saw Iverson win The Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both basketball and football. The AP published a thorough rundown of Iverson’s athletic accomplishments that year:
“Iverson the quarterback passed for 1,423 yards with 14 touchdowns. Iverson the runner gained 781 yards with 15 touchdowns. Iverson the kick returner scored five touchdowns, four on punts. Iverson the defensive back intercepted eight passes.
Maybe the nation’s best high school point guard, the first team Parade All-American led the Bruins to their first state, Eastern Region and Peninsula District titles. He is at the top of the list when players having the complete package of skills are discussed. He has explosive quickness, great leaping ability and NBA 3-point shooting range.”
Iverson went on to be drafted first overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. During Iverson’s tenure with the 76ers he helped drive the team’s improvement from perennial cellar-dweller to contender, and in the 1999-2000 season, he led a playoff run. The 76ers’ rise culminated in a trip to the NBA Finals to end the 2000-2001 season, but Iverson’s team ran into a brick wall known as Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite Iverson’s 48-point scoring outburst in a Game 1 victory – which was the Lakers’ only loss of the entire playoffs – the 76ers bowed out to the Lakers in five games.
Iverson won the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award that year, and by the time he hung up his sneakers in 2010, he had been named to the All-Star Game 11 times, led the league in scoring for four seasons, and earned numerous individual awards. Along the way, Iverson also found himself repeatedly making headlines for controversial behavior both on and off the court.
One of Iverson’s numerous legal scandals occurred in 2004 when he was banned from the Bally’s Atlantic City casino for allegedly urinating in a trash can. The basketball star’s gambling-related issues continued in 2005 after he was mistakenly paid out $10,000 after losing a hand of Three-Card Stud poker. The incident took place at another Atlantic City casino, the Trump Taj Mahal, and rather than return the extra chips, Iverson simply pocketed the “winnings” and made a scene. After arguing with casino staff and refusing to return the chips, Iverson’s behavior led him being escorted out of the property. According to New Jersey state law, players are responsible for repaying any overpayments or errors made by a gaming establishment.
In 2011 Iverson again found himself on the wrong side of casino authorities, as he was banned from two Detroit-area properties during a short stint with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. As the Detroit News reported of Iverson’s banning:
“Allen Iverson has gone from being a one-man economic stimulus plan for the city’s downtown casinos to persona non grata. He has spent a ton of money down there, but recently he’s been banned from both MGM and Greektown casinos.
(Iverson) was banned mostly for his boorish behavior. He is a bad loser, and he loses a lot, often throwing his chips or cards at the dealer. He has been warned about improper behavior at the tables repeatedly. He is often loud and disruptive, according to witnesses, rude to dealers, other players and the wait staff.”
One year before the Detroit incidents, Iverson was the subject of intense scrutiny regarding his financial status, with many believing he had gambled away the entirety of his accumulated NBA salary. In 2010 the Phildelphia Inquirer published reports which documented Iverson’s descent into ever-deepening debt. Although Iverson continues to deny the veracity of these reports, it is widely believed that a combination of excessive gambling and substance abuse led the former NBA great to lose most, if not all, of his former fortune.