Two days after the benching in Detroit, they sat across from each other in a room. Allen with his arms wrapped around himself, smoldering. Larry with his head tucked into his shoulders, loathing confrontation, furious that team president Pat Croce was forcing them to spill everything on die table. The table, that's what Larry crawled under at restaurants when his wife asked the waiter to take her blood-red steak back and do it medium, the way she'd asked.
Croce was scared. Larry had demanded that Allen be traded or he himself would quit. Allen had demanded that Larry be fired or that he be traded. Croce felt the whole franchise quaking under his feet. "Allen," said Croce, "I don't think Coach likes you."
Allen erupted at Larry. "You say this team's a family when it's convenient, but then you go talk about me in the newspapers," he said. "If it's really family, then you keep it in the family! You don't disrespect me like that. There are times when you're coaching me and I'm looking at you, trying to learn, and I can tell you're thinking I don't give a f—-what you have to say. You think I'm not listening because of an expression on my face. Well, I hear you. I hear everything!"
"Are you finished?" Larry said.
"Do I ask you if you're finished when you talk to me?"
"Coach," said Croce, "I get the feeling that the way you act toward Allen feels to him like what the police and the judicial system did in Virginia after he came out of that bowling alley."
Larry's jaw dropped. The biggest hero in his life was Jackie Robinson. He'd never dreamed he could come across like that.
Go look at the sidewalk at 3710 Jordan Drive. It says, FREE IVERSON, SIMMONS, WAYNE AND STEVENS. I took a stick and wrote that in wet cement. That's the four black kids got put in jail.
Allen come home one day with a lump on his head and a headache. Fight had started at the bowlin' alley between whites and blacks over somethin' said. He told me his friends had pulled him out, he hadn't done nothin'. "They didn't want me gettin' in no trouble," he said. "They my niggas." He'd just quarterbacked the football team at Bethel High to the state championship and was doin' the same with the basketball team. Next thing I know they're arrestin' Allen and three other black boys.