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Mama's Boys
Gary Smith
April 23, 2001
Two fiercely competitive small men in a big man's game, two sons of hardworking single moms—Allen Iverson and Larry Brown are so much alike that only their mothers could tell them apart...and bring them together.
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April 23, 2001

Mama's Boys

Two fiercely competitive small men in a big man's game, two sons of hardworking single moms—Allen Iverson and Larry Brown are so much alike that only their mothers could tell them apart...and bring them together.

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Larry and Allen had so much in common, if they just stopped fixating on their differences. Both were raised by single moms. Both were the smallest guys on every court they played on, all heart and hunger—Larry diving across floors so often he now hobbled on replacement hips, Allen skidding and bouncing toward the same fate. Each so sensitive that one word or look from the other could inflict deep pain. Both, even with their 35-year difference in age, going home every day to the noise, toys and sticky hugs of small children: Allen to his three-year-old boy and six-year-old girl, Larry to his three-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. Both living in multimillion-dollar Main Line estates on the outskirts of Philly, only a few miles apart. Both feeling terribly misunderstood.

Anyone who witnessed a 76ers game, who saw the veins pop on Larry's forehead as he sat coiled on the bench, who watched Allen dip and dart relentlessly when he didn't have the ball and hurl his 165-pound body into the mayhem when he did, knew immediately that they were the two men who cared the most. Their passion entwined them: Each needed the other, completely, to have a prayer of doing what they both had to do. Win. Everything.

They began to grope their way toward each other this season after a summer when all seemed lost, when Larry nearly took the North Carolina job and Allen was all but gone in a trade. Their turn from the brink altered team dynamics so dramatically that it hurtled the Sixers to the league's second-best record this season. Still, it remained the most volatile of relationships, so painful at times for Larry that his wife, Shelly, told him a few months ago that maybe he should quit, so charged with potential that he and Allen could end up side by side on a float rolling down Broad Street this June.

It's none of my business, of course. But with so much at stake—in a sport that hinges, more than any other, on relationships—why let those two mothers and sons walk away, as they did that night in Miami two years ago? Why not sit them all down and have the Anns tell each other's son their tale? Defy those two boys to remain misunderstood....

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Ann Iverson would order up a glass of blush wine before telling her story, stick a straw in it and ring that straw with lipstick, flaming red. She'd wear what she wears to Sixers games: mink hat and mink coat over a custom-made IVERSON'S MOM number 3 jersey flapping down to her knees over a shirt festooned with the same words and images that are tattooed on her son's skin, along with a pair of Reebok sneakers and a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth of jewelry. She'd be ready to talk all night, because she'd slept all day. Her nickname is Juicy.

Allen Iverson was conceived without intercourse. That was 1 a.m. on Sept. 22, 1974 at my grandmother's house in Hartford. I'd made up my mind that on my 15th birthday I'd have my first sexual encounter, with Allen Broughton. He was a point guard, and the leader of a gang called the Family Connection—he was only a year older than me, but he had 40-and 50-year-old men under him! We'd been goin' together since I was 12, but I'd told him I wasn't gonna have sex with him till I was 15. I thought that was a decent time to wait.

We had it all planned. At midnight of my birthday, when everyone was asleep, he tapped on the back door. I was in my pj's and robe. We went down to the basement and used an old mattress that was down there. He started grindin' against me—he never put it in!—and before you know it.... Then I heard the bathroom door upstairs—Grandma was awake! I got him out of the house quick. Eight weeks later I took a physical for basketball, and they told me I was eight weeks pregnant. I said to the doctor, "You're tellin' a story!" They took the test again, and the doctor called my grandma in and said, "Your granddaughter's gonna have a baby, but she hasn't been penetrated."

I'm tellin' ya, I look at Allen and I say, God had a plan for him and me.

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