Allen Iverson was drunk at the 2002 news conference in which he repeated the phrase "we're talking about practice" 22 times, according to a book published this week.
Journalist Kent Babb interviewed former Philadelphia 76ers president Pat Croce, former coach Larry Brown and former general manager Billy King, among others, about the rambling rant for Babb's book "Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson."
According to the book, King suggested that Iverson speak to reporters four days after the Celtics had eliminated the Sixers in the first round of the 2002 Eastern Conference playoffs. The news conference came on the heels of Iverson showing up late for a meeting with Brown, then arguing with Brown about the player's future in the parking lot of the team facility. According to the book, Iverson asked Brown -- who days earlier had said any Sixer could be traded -- if he was on the block. Brown said no.
After his talk with Brown, Iverson left with a friend and returned later for the news conference. "I assumed he went and fooled around somewhere," Brown said, tipping his hand up like a bottle, the author wrote in the book.
Before the news conference, King said he could tell that something was off about Iverson, but "if we thought that he was drinking or whatever, we'd have never done it."
Wrote Babb: "Some were entertained, and others watched the train wreck unfold, knowing from experience that Iverson was drunk."
King tried to think of a way to stop the press conference, the book said, while Croce, watching on television, said he suspected Iverson was drunk and asked his wife to shut off the TV.
John Smallwood, a Daily News columnist who was in attendance, was also quoted as saying: "He was lit. If he had been sober, he would have been able to get himself out of that. He never would've gone down that path. Maybe you had to have been around him all the time to know the difference, but we all knew."
Iverson retired over a decade later and told reporters in 2013 that he never should have done the news conference back in 2002.
"They had no idea my best friend had just got killed," Iverson said. "The press conference wasn't about practice, it was about me (possibly) being traded from Philadelphia. Nobody ever talked about that, never heard why I was upset or what the conference was about."
Seven months before the news conference, Iverson's friend, Rahsaan Langford, was shot to death in Virginia.