Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Alter Images: Iverson, Kobe Real and Phony

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Alter Images: Iverson, Kobe Real and Phony

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Freeman, The Times-Union

Allen Iverson is seated in an uncomfortable metal chair, crashing after a frenetic two-hour practice, his skinny legs protruding outward like landing struts on an airliner. He is sporting typical Iverson gear. Droopy shorts down to his knees. Braided hair. The sweat band. The tattoos that dance up and down his arms and legs.

Iverson's reputation is so charbroiled, he has singe marks on his sneakers. You know what I mean. The look that says hard-core. The arrests. The you-talkin'-'bout-practice attitude.

"I think some people, especially in the media -- even though they are wrong -- have seen me as a symbol of what's wrong with the NBA," he says Tuesday after a Team USA practice at UNF.

And if there was anyone who embodied the anti-Iverson, it was Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Clean-cut. Well-spoken. From a traditional nuclear family, owner of a crossover dribble and crossover appeal. Good guy, it was thought. How could that smile ever go wrong, we believed.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Kobe's face landing on cereal boxes, and Iverson's on Cops. The truth about Kobe, it turns out, is far more complicated. We now know he might have used a smile and proper use of the English language to shield a sinister side. We now know that Kobe is a gold-plated phony. By his admission, he has cheated on his wife. He's power-hungry. He is not a team player. He broke up a dynasty so he could be the star.

Iverson is no angel, of course. Guns, homophobic rap songs, a lack of respect for authority, and a legendary loathing of practice are a part of Iverson's rep. But in an instant, in the second it took Kobe to make a series of disastrous decisions, an alternate universe was created.

One in which Iverson is co-captain of the Olympic team, rebuilding his image, assist by assist, conversation by conversation, and Kobe is now the bad boy, the poster cad for everything that is wrong with professional basketball. …

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