Allen Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001.
BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Allen Iverson was sued over his nickname of "The Answer."
An under-reported part of the lives of many athletes is the time before they became prized college recruits. This is the time that players grow (or sometimes fail to grow) from being promising young athletes into becoming "stars," and in the case of many of these players, they come from environments where they need help from more than just their families or else their promise will not even have a chance of being fulfilled.
This unique arrangement often leads to a number of "family friends" who become involved in young athletes' lives, giving them and their family financial support. Many of them do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Some, though, likely are thinking of what happens when said athlete becomes a wealthy professional. It is nearly impossible without mind reading to tell one group from the other.
In any event, this interesting type of relationship was at the center of a 2003 lawsuit between Allen Iverson and Jamil Blackmon, the man who came up with Iverson's famous nickname "The Answer." At issue was whether Blackmon should be paid for his coinage of the nickname.
Allen Iverson's mother, Ann Iverson, was just 15 years old when she became pregnant. She had moved from the ghettos of Hartford, Conn., to live with her maternal grandmother in Hampton, Va., after her mother died. Young Allen's father, Allen Broughton, was still living in Hartford.Ann visited Hartford with her baby but decided she did not want to raise her baby in such a bad neighborhood, so she returned to Virginia and Broughton was out of Ann and Allen's life for good.
Making things more difficult, Ann's grandmother passed away soon after Allen was born. Ann and Allen moved in with her boyfriend, Michael Freeman, in an apartment on the east end of Newport News, Va., not much better of a living situation than the ghetto Ann left behind in Connecticut. Ann and Freeman had two daughters, one of whom, Iiesha, had problems with seizures. They had a difficult life. Michael lost his job in 1988 and, driven to desperation, was arrested for dealing drugs in 1991. This was a time period where Jamil Blackmon began to have a major role in Iverson's life.
The two had met in 1987, but during the early 1990s, Blackmon gave the Iversons financial support, including allowing them to stay in his own home during the periods where things were bad at their own. He helped Iverson get academic help in high school to make sure that he would be able to play college basketball. Finally, in June of 1994, with Iverson set to attend Georgetown University on a basketball scholarship, Blackmon came up with an idea. Iverson's nickname would be "The Answer," as he was going to be the "Answer to all of the NBA's woes" (remember, Michael Jordan was not in the NBA in 1994). Later in that night in June, after telling Iverson the nickname, Iverson agreed to pay Blackmon 25% of whatever money he made off of the Answer nickname.
Iverson went on to become a star in Georgetown for two seasons before leaving school after his sophomore year (a rarity for students in John Thompson's Georgetown basketball program). His sister's medical problems played a significant role in Iverson deciding to go to the NBA after just two years of college. Iverson was selected with the first pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Right before the draft, Iverson worked out a deal with the sneaker company Reebok. Iverson and Reebok decided to model Iverson's shoe line around "The Answer" nickname.
At this time, Iverson reiterated to Blackmon that he would pay him 25% of whatever money Reebok paid Iverson for "The Answer" shoe line. Then Iverson told Blackmon that apparently "The Answer" was already in use as a trademark, so they wouldn't be doing the line after all. Of course, soon afterward, the line of shoes did start and it was, indeed, named "The Answer."
During Thanksgiving of 1997, Iverson once again reiterated that he would give Blackmon 25% of the Reebok deal. Roughly a year later, Iverson once again told Blackmon he would give him 25% of the Reebok deal and this time even told Blackmon that he should relocate to Philadelphia so that he could reap the benefits of the deal and so Iverson could compensate him for his earlier financial support of the Iverson family.