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Outside the Lines: Crossover Image

Here's the transcript from Show 63 of weekly Outside The Lines - Image Crossover

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Guests: Cris Carter, Minnesota Vikings; Billy King, general manager Philadelphia 76ers; Larry Platt, author of Keeping it Real.

Announcer - June 10, 2001.

Unidentified male: Congratulations 2001 NBA MVP Allen Iverson.

Bob Ley, (voice-over): His image now is that of a winning warrior, but wasn't it just yesterday that Allen Iverson was seen as anything but ...

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers: Smallest man on the court, but the biggest villain in life.

Unidentified male: The first time we heard about Allen's kind of goings-on was sort of a little bit more like, how could you?

Once we get used to that, then we're sort of like, well this guy is really interesting to watch.

Professor Todd Boyd, USC School of Cinema and Television: And America loves controversy, and we love outlaw-like figures, whether they be fictional, like Tony Soprano, or whether they be, you know, the real thing like Allen Iverson.

Ley: : Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, the speed and the story of Allen Iverson's image crossover.

(End videotape)

Announcer: OUTSIDE THE LINES is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Joining us from ESPN Studios: Bob Ley: : .

Ley: : For all the talk of Allen Iverson's play, how he single-handedly has erased the inevitability of a Laker rout, perhaps the most remarkable event in Iverson's week was something that did not occur. Originally Iverson's rap CD with lyrics that offended women, gays and others -- that CD was to be released on Tuesday. The last thing Iverson, his team or the NBA needed. Right now that CD is remaining under wraps.

In hip-hop America Iverson has been a star and an icon for several years. It's the rest of the cultural spectrum that has only lately gotten on the bus.

Allen Iverson turned 26 this week, which reminds us he has been on the stage for most of the past decade, from his time in prison as a high school star, to his career at Georgetown, to his uneasy emergence in the NBA. And now the last month, when he is no longer angry potential, but a winning leader.

No sudden turn in America public opinion goes unexploited, and Iverson's makeover is a stunning reversal, which could mean a fortune, especially considering what the view of Iverson was mere months ago.

(Begin videotape)

Ley: (voice-over): Before Iverson's image was rehabilitated, it was carved in stone yet again at the beginning of training camp.

Iverson: I'm not even brave enough to miss that many practices. I mean, they made it seem like -- people made it -- come on man. People...

Unidentified male: How many did you miss?

Iverson: I don't know, I wasn't counting. But people made it seem like I didn't even come to practice.

Ashley McGeachy, the Philadelphia Inquirer: Media day this year in October, there were 30 people around him.

Iverson: But if you're a hardcore hip-hop fan, this album is for you.

McGeachy When I was there I was thinking you want to be the MVP -- excuse me -- you want to be the captain of this team?


McGeachy You've just come out with this rap CD that has offended women, people in the city, people with kids, and you want to be the captain?

Iverson: I am the captain. It's already done.

Unidentified male: It's already done?

Iverson: It's already done.

Pat Croce, Philadelphia 76ers president: I can't control Allen Iverson's outside world. You know I can't. I mean, I've been here four years, so has he. So, no, that's his -- he's a man. And he has other wishes, loves, dreams outside being an NBA all-star and winning NBA championship. And I can't control that.

Ley: : Iverson was perceived as style, not substance: edgy hip-hop challenging corporate culture. His many tattoos had been airbrushed by the NBA from the cover of a league magazine. His controversial CD unleashed the public furies.

Boyd: Many people looked at him, they saw the cornrows, they saw the tattoos, you know, maybe they had heard about the lyrics on the album he had recorded. They've maybe heard about him being late to practice or not showing up.

Iverson: I didn't come to practice because I was out all night. You know, I hang out all night all the time.

Ley: : But in short order, playing hurt, winning hurt, scoring at a near record pace and lifting his team on his slight shoulders; he has spun public opinion on a dime. A testament to either his skill, or the herd mentality of the media, or both.

Iverson: For the first time in my life, you know, I'm conducting myself on and off the court like a professional. And it just kind of took some growing up.

Sam Smith, the Chicago Tribune: He has changed. I mean, he really -- you see him at the podium at these press conferences which you've watched. In the interviews now, he's more comfortable now about who he is. He's not as suspicious of everybody, he's not as defensive.

Ley: : His image was transformed by the same media that first defined it.

Boyd: The guys playing the basketball come from a very different perspective, oftentimes, than the guys who are getting paid to report on basketball. Oftentimes you have gentlemen of a much older generation, from a different racial and class background who are trying to, in essence, you know, fit square pegs in round holes. And unfortunately they just won't fit.

Smith: We didn't really want to like Allen Iverson. I've never run into an athlete who had a bigger chip on his shoulder than this kid. Here was a guy who really had a streak of anger about him, and usually when he came up. You rarely see players like that. But it is the element, really, which we found out, that makes him thrive.

Unidentified male: Allen, what do you make of the change in public perceptions towards you?

Iverson: I don't care. Nothing easy about being Allen Iverson. Everybody's looking at you every move, criticizing you for just saying a curse word when you get mad, you know. But like you were some type of villain, the smallest man on the court but the biggest villain in life.

Ley: : Iverson's image redemption, even from bitter depths is a sports theme.

French Open champion Jennifer Capriati is now celebrated. A far cry from when her life and career were in tatters. Ray Lewis rebounded in months from murder defendant to Super Bowl MVP, though the ordeal left him a commercial pariah, devoid of endorsements. But Latrell Sprewell's image has more: from violent player who attacked his coach, to endorser even used by the very league that suspended him.

Latrell Sprewell, New York Knicks: I've really been the same person that I was before the incident when I was with Coach Carlissimo (ph). So I don't -- I haven't changed as a person.

Jay Gilbert, CEO And 1: You can almost point to a specific moment, which is when the Knicks won the conference finals, and Sprewell was literally running around the Garden with his arms out, in like a full embrace, to all the Knicks fans. There's nothing more American than Frank Sinatra -- I did it my way. That's what Sprewell and that's what Allen Iverson are doing. They just are doing it on the basketball court.

Chuck McBride, creative director TBWA/Chiat Day: Don't we always root for the underdog?

Ley: : Commercial creator Chuck McBride believes deals are even now being struck for Iverson to cash in on this newly perceived personae.

McBridge: The first one in will be the genius, and then everyone else will be sort of the Johnny-come-latelies. It happens again and again, you know, fallen heroes can become heroes again.

Ley: : Reebok rushed to complete production of Iverson's newest commercial for today's game three of the NBA finals. Other endorsers may be standing in line.

McBridge: I would be looking into clothing issues, because he's got style. The kid's got style, and he's got a lot of gravity around his personae.

Ley: : The new Iverson is examined and defined as eagerly as the excesses of the old were detailed. Is image crossover breathtaking in its speed and polarity? How long will this new image endure?

McGeachy: Until he does something to screw it up.

(End videotape)

Ley: : Well, joining us this morning to consider Allen Iverson's image crossover, Cris Carter of the Minnesota Vikings, a future Hall of Fame receiver, who earlier in his career did play in Philadelphia, overcame personal issues there, and he has mentored his Vikings teammate Randy Moss. Cris Carter is joining us this morning from Boca Raton, Florida.

Billy King is the GM, the General Managers of the Seventy-Sixers, the youngest GM in the NBA. He is in Philadelphia.

Larry Platt wrote the book, "Keeping it Real," and he is working on a biography of Allen Iverson and his mother Anne. Good morning all.

Cris, let me begin with you. What do you make of this perception that there is a public 180 in the image of Allen Iverson?

Cris Carter, Minnesota Vikings: Well I think perception sometimes is not always reality. I think the one way to perceive the athlete, as far as what they do with their occupation, as far as their job. If you look at Allen, I think our assessment of him, as far as a professional athlete, wasn't fair. Actually he didn't know how to be a professional athlete. Now that he is 26 years old, he's far more responsible than he was at the age of 21.

And I think we should reassess what we think of Allen. But if you look at a person of his height and his weight, you know six foot -- and I don't believe he is six foot-160 pounds, which is probably accurate. And if he can be MVP of the NBA, that tells you a lot about his image or his personae or his heart. And I think that's what's more important to me right now, is what is Iverson's heart compared to what the people think about him?

Ley: : Well, last summer, Billy King, there was a phone call made, Pat Croce talking to Allen Iverson. (unintelligible) gets very, very close. After Pat got off the phone with Bubba Chuck, as Allen's known, he called you -- your boss called you. What did he say about that phone call?

Billy King, 76ers general manager: Well, he just said that they had a great conversation with Allen, and Allen himself realized he had to make changes. And Pat believed him, because he was sincere.

And about three weeks later Allen showed up unannounced, and met with me. And reiterated same things. And that's when I called Larry in California. I said, coach, yeah, I think this kid is willing to make changes, willing to try to do the things that is right.

And a lot of the credit goes to Allen, but like Cris just said, people wanted Allen to be 30 years old when he came in the league at 21. And he just -- he made the same mistakes that a lot of youngsters make. But the unfortunate thing is he was in the public eye.

Ley: : What's it like, Cris, coming in at age 21, with big bucks and all the attention on you?

Carter: Well see, everyone feels that they understand. They understand what Allen came from, they understand his high school situation. They understand what he endured at Georgetown. And they understood, OK -- most of the people in corporate America, which I think that is the better comparison to the athlete -- their ascending to success has been gradual.

And they've been able to make mistakes not in the public limelight. But they are also, their income or stature, financially they have been able to grow into. But athletes don't have that liberty, because our window is so short, and it is the direct reversal of people in corporate America. Where, the financial responsibility is placed on us in our 20s that 40 and 50-year-old men have, and we don't handle it well all the time.

Ley: : Larry Platt what about the change. Who has changed more, Allen or the media around Allen, both locally and nationally?

Larry Platt, author/journalist: I think Allen's grown like any 21-year-old grows between the time he's 21 and 26. He's matured in other words. But there hasn't been a sea change or a rehabilitation. Allen is, has basically been the same person.

The biggest change he made was through his watch. He started coming to practice on time, as Billy will tell you. And as Allen said, conducting himself professionally by going to practice on time, and so forth. But, you know, in the past, what's new here it seems to me is that in the past black athletes had to be made over for the comfort of white America by Madison Avenue. I mean, Julius Irving in this very town shaved his trademark afro when he wanted to become a businessman in 1979, while he was still playing.

You're not going to see Allen do that. I mean, when he won the MVP award, he stood up there with his -- and his boys were in the back of the room, the same guys that were vilified four years ago -- and he said. What means a lot to me is that I didn't have to change who I am to get this done. And that's part of his hip-hop, keeping it real ethic.

Ley: : Well you bring up hip-hop and race, and we can get to that a little bit later as well. I want to bring up age. Billy King is going to be with us just for a short time. Bill, you're 34, youngest GM in the league. But 34 is a different generation, I think, to some of today's players. How much of it is the age issue, between the perception of those in their 30s and 40s and this hip-hop generation?

King: Well I think it is a little difference in the age than the generation now. But I think the big thing with Allen is just he has matured and he's grown up. And also America really hasn't got a chance to see him as much now. They have because we've been on TV -- he's been at press conferences. And they see that he is a real person. But the generation gap is different, I think. A lot of people cannot relate to the hip-hop. And a lot of times I don't. I sit there and talk with Allen, and he'll explain some things to me. But you know I -- from day one when I got here I loved the kid.

And I think I was just waiting for America and everybody to get a chance to really get to know him. And that's what they've done with these playoffs. They've had a chance to really sit down and see him talk, see him with his kids, see one of his kids at practice. He is a 26-year-old fun loving kid.

And I told him after you won the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) finals, I said Allen, you've made the difference. You decided to lead this team, you decided to put us on your back not only on the court but off the court. And you deserve this credit.

Ley: : I know you saw our piece. You must get a chuckle about some of those quotes, Billy that are now totally reversed from what they were in October. I mean, all that is right about the new breed of the NBA, nobody would have written that in October.

King: Well I think they saw what this kid has done this year. And now the people say, well maybe this is the new breed. But I think that like Larry said, this is Allen. He's been the same. I think he's matured and learned from some of his mistakes. But he's been the same Allen Iverson this whole time. He's just understanding that he can't be as outlandish. And if you go back, it's great. You know, Charles BarkLey: , a good friend of mine, some of the things he said when he was young and the things he did. People vilified him. Now he's on TV and people love him.

Ley: : Some of the things he's still saying, indeed. Billy King, I know you have a prior engagement, so we thank you very much for joining us. You have to say good-bye at this point, thank you. We will all be continuing with Cris Carter and Larry Platte in talking about Allen Iverson's image crossover on OUTSIDE THE LINES.

(Commercial break)

Ley: : There is a real present-day commercial value to Allen Iverson's emergence. Even before the NBA Finals had begun, sales of Iverson's jerseys were booming. With his colors and his styles occupying six of the top ten positions in national sales figures of NBA jersey replicas. Will continue with Cris Carter and with Larry Platt discussing Iverson's image crossover OUTSIDE THE LINES in just a moment.

(Commercial break)

Ley: : We continue with Cris Carter of the Vikings and author Larry Platt. Our topic is Iverson's image crossover.

Cris, what are the parallels you would draw between this situation with Allen Iverson and the way you've had to mentor, and have mentored Randy Moss in his first years in the NFL?

Carter: Well I think the situations are very, very similar. In the sense as far as the personalities and also, their athletic ability and what they do in the field of play. I think the one thing that is a little different about Randy's situation, from beginning I was always there. From the day that he was drafted and called me on the phone, and told me that he wanted to work with me. Allen's situation has been a little bit different because he's had older players there in Philadelphia, but not necessarily there from the beginning to necessarily work with him.

And Allen would admit that he came to the change himself. Or through his situations made him change. Randy, I've let Randy make mistakes, but Randy, most of Randy's changes are based upon him at an earlier age saying that he realized he needed to do certain things. And I think Randy's progress has been more gradual. But you look, you're talking about the same type of athlete. Athletes who are second to none as far as their ability, and what they display on and off the field might be taken as a little in different.

Ley: : You heard the point earlier that Dr. Todd Boyd of USC made, Cris about the media: square peg, round hole; media largely white maybe older, certainly older than the athletes. Ho much validity is there to that?

King: Well, there is some validity, because of the environment that they grew up in, or the environment that they are involved in on a daily basis. My little boy who is ten years old, he has corn rolls in his hair. So, and myself growing up as a youth I had cornrows in my hair.

So it's something that we understand as a culture. And I think that we should not have to take that away from African Americans as far as their appearance, as far as their grooming, as far as their hair. I think other cultures have that and it is not taken away from them. I think it is tough that people don't look at athletes as entertainers. And they are. If an athlete does an interview with a do-rag on his head, he's vilified as if he's a gangster or a hoodlum or a thug. And that's never said with other athletes.

If you look at other athletes who have a different type of image. You look at, you know, John Rocker, who say the things that he's said. If you look at even Jim McMahon of the past. They were never called thugs.

It always seems that the African-American is always called the thug. And that's not necessarily the truth behind it all. And I think if they look at African-Americans a little bit different, when they are different or have a different personality.

Ley: : Larry, what about the way things like that are received on press row? You spent a lot of time around the league. Your book several years ago, "Keeping it Real" talked about things like this. And what are some of the things that you've seen here on press row?

Platt: Well I mean, I think that Allen is at the center of a cultural, racial, and generational gap between he and the media. It's all those three things combined. Media that covers him is overwhelmingly white, middle-class, and older. And so you've got this clash. And unlike in the past, Allen comes from a culture that he's not going to make accommodations to that clash.

And I think what's happening now is the media is coming around to him. Which is an interesting advancement of the history of this script. Because as I said earlier, in the past black athletes had to make accommodations. Madison Avenue -- you know, Madison Avenue marketed white athletes as rebels to us, in the tradition of James Dean and Elvis. Guys like Joe Namath and John McEnroe.

But a black athlete always had to make accommodations to his personality to be marketed. And I think you are going to see that not be the case with Allen. Because we're in a new age. An age where, you know, Lil' Kim is doing Calvin Klein ads. And Puff Daddy is out at the Hamptons with Donald Trump. So you've got -- it's almost like the new crossover is the hip-hop persona...

Ley: : So the possibility of all these commercials that might flow from this, if Allen wants it. And that's a separate question. You can address that if you'd like. But the possibility of this, this rehab of the image leading to more commercials is rather amazing.

Platt: Yeah, I think it is. And you make a good point, Bob, if Allen wants it. Because one of the things that I think is kind of cool about Allen is that he just wants to play ball and hang with his friends. He doesn't want to be like Mike, to borrow the Gatorade slogan. He doesn't want to go to all these photo shoots every day.

I think it is kind of refreshing that we've got a player who plays so hard, and just wants to play. I mean, it is a little known fact that Spike Lee wanted him to play the role that ultimately went to Ray Allen in "He's Got Game," but Allen Iverson said no, because it was his first summer with money, and he wanted to share it with his friends, and just hang out.

Carter: Well one thing too, that I think is important too. As far as, the athlete should be able to dictate as far as what he does in his spare time. But you have to realize that we're in a generation that's following one of the most unbelievable generations or unbelievable figures as far as Michael Jordan. He was the most recognizable figure and the most marketable, and he just happened to be the best athlete.

Now we're following that generation, now everyone's trying to live up to Mike and what he did from a marketing standpoint. But there will never be another Mike. And I've spent a lot of private time with Michael, you know, playing cards, and playing golf and socializing. And the Michael Jordan you see a lot of times in the commercials with the suits and things on, that's who Michael is. He loves to dress, he loves to look nice. Allen Iverson, Randy Moss, you know, sometimes Randy will come over to my house and he wants to wear a suit for the game. So I'll help him pick out...

Ley: : And Iverson has been himself...

Carter: ... so I'll pick out his tie for him, but some games we go to the airport, and Randy has told me he is going to wear a suit, and he gets on the plane. And he says, hey Cris, I just wasn't feeling that way today. I feel like I want to do blue jeans, I want to do hip-hop, this is my mood and this is the way I want to play. And that's one thing that we just have to come to understand.

Ley: : Guys we'll have to leave it at that. Thank you so much. Cris Carter, thank you for being with us. Good luck as you approach that final season. And also Larry Platt; and thanks to Billy King who also joined us earlier.

Next, an array of opinions on last week's look at the gay dilemma.

(Commercial break)

Ley: : Our discussion last week of whether a gay male pro athlete could come out provoked an array of e-mails this week.

From Lexington, Kentucky: "I tuned in Sunday morning to OUTSIDE THE LINES and could hardly digest the breakfast I was eating while watching the program. The thought of bringing homosexuality to Major League ballparks sickens me. If they are going to have a gay-lesbian night, they should also have a prostitute's night, murderers night, or wife-beaters night. They are all the same, they are all wrong."

From Riverside, California: "The same athletes worried about a gay teammate have no problem with women-beaters, illegitimate kids, or teammates who run around on their wives. What everyone needs to remember is he who is without sin, cast the first stone."

From Indianapolis, "Naive is not the word I would use to describe the editor of "Out" magazine. Disloyal and selfish are better, though not nearly critical enough."

Those comments registered online from the front page. Type the keyword OTLWEEKLY to browse our complete library of transcripts and streaming video of all our Sunday programs back to our inception. You can also join our start discussions on our public message board. And we always welcome your e-mail. Our address, There's our address, be in touch.

(Commercial break)

Ley: : We've been talking about Allen Iverson, and now Chris McKendry and Dave Revsine look ahead to game three tonight in Philadelphia, and the raising of the cup in Colorado last night.

"SportsCenter" with all the highlights, next up.

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