This is why I like AI...

He may not be the penultimate role model. He does not have the squeaky clean image that moms love and politicians line up to have photo shoots with. But for my money, I would take Allen Iverson's personal character over 99% of celebrities- nay, people- out there.

You could count his jingoism lobbying to play for Team USA in this year's World Championships (and not being selected despite being the defacto leader of Team "US" and best playmaker in the 2004 Olympics, and would have been again in this year's Worlds.

You could count his, er... his mom's investment/altruism/philanthropy in minor league basketball (yes, the ABA) in an underexposed, underfunded region like Richmond, VA- which is a great college sports town, but not so much a pro city.

Count the last 2 seasons of scrutiny and trade rumors AI has dealt with in Philly because the team should rebuild while it's not going anywhere. And that's not AI's fault- he's just their biggest bargaining chip- still an above average scorer and playmaker with good (not great) defensive skills, which many playoff-aspiring teams need (hello Bulls and Mavs).

Even if you count his "rap" albums against him, not because it's rap music, but because they were bad.

Allen Iverson is a character guy. And this article proves it.

In the 1990's, the big fixation was "the shoes". Everyone knew them as Air Jordans. And I recall SI even did a huge cover story back in the day about violent crime and celebrity-endorsed apparel. Specifically geared toward the desire for those less fortunate to pursue criminal acts to obtain the much sought after footwear, the article portrayed the horrific reality of inner city youth trying to survive on the street- not because of drugs or gang influence, but because what shoes a kid wore might get him killed.

And here we are, over a decade later and this type of tragedy can still touch us. A young man, Kevin Johnson, died Tuesday after being shot and paralyzed 3 years ago; afflicted by complications to the ventilator he used due to his paralysis- a condition inflicted on him because he was shot in the neck for refusing to give up his AI jersey 3 years ago.

In steps AI. He is paying for young Mr. Johnson's funeral expenses. For an event that happened 3 years ago. Because the kid wore his jersey. Because no one should be harmed, let alone die because they are simply, a fan. That's what this came down to. A fan was killed because he showed his allegiance to his team (and AI) in the form of a jersey. And some other punk kids wanted said jersey. Never mind you can probably buy an AI jersey on Ebay for next to nothing. An idea that elementary does not occur to violent criminals- even young ones who grew up around computers instead of a basketball court (my trivial reference to the now age-old argument of kids in my day actually playing outside versus kids today playing
virtually, if at all).

Iverson felt responsible. And no, he was not actually responsible. He knows that, we know that, Mrs. Johnson- Kevin's mom- knows that. But AI did something very few celebrity's would do. He stepped up and made a statement about his influence over youth. And this circumstance highlights both the good and evil of that influence. A good kid loved and respected AI's game and had something positive in his life on which to focus (a team, a player succeeding, winning attitude, etc.). Another kid, this one bad, consciously decided another person's life was worth a $35 dollar tank top.

It's a vicious contrast- a dichotomy that spans all time in so many different communities, cultures, studies, and disciplines. Good and evil exist and they are constantly at war.

Iverson is definitely one of the good guys. Kevin Johnson was one of the good guys. And the bad guys won a round. But AI made a gesture that at lease erases some of the residue from that evil. He even said himself, he alone cannot change things, but he can help.

Only a character guy would even try.

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