×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Iverson’

With:
With: Allen Iverson

The actions of Allen Iverson, a polarizing figure throughout his NBA career, take on deeper meaning within the context of the tension created among white management — and culture at large — by players in a predominantly African-American league. “Iverson,” a feature-length documentary playing on Showtime, zeroes in on this dynamic, approaching its subject with considerable sympathy, from his imprisonment as a teenager to his embrace of hip-hop music and tattoos. While the film suffers from some excesses, starting with its intrusive score, it’s a timely reminder — coming during the NBA playoffs — of a cultural rift that periodically surfaces involving star athletes.

Opening with Iverson’s impoverished upbringing, growing up in Virginia without a father, filmmaker Zatella Beatty dutifully runs through his youth as a two-sport star (football and basketball) seemingly bound for a bountiful seven-figure future. All that is derailed, however, when the athlete and his friends are arrested in a bowling-alley brawl, with prosecutors appearing to harbor a special interest in making an example of the high-profile player.

Iverson’s sentence was ultimately commuted, but colleges who had lined up for his services were suddenly balking, before he wound up with Coach John Thompson at Georgetown. Yet while his performance there made Iverson a top draft pick and all-star with the Philadelphia 76ers, his renegade image alarmed league officials, with then-Commissioner David Stern seeking to impose a dress code, and others in management, including Laker coach Phil Jackson, giving voice to misgivings about players adopting a “thug” lifestyle.

If all that sounds familiar, it’s because those issues — and, as evidenced by recent coverage of the unrest in Baltimore, the debate over that terminology — haven’t gone away. Indeed, the adulation of athletes coexists with resentment in certain quarters, as young stars not only garner stratospheric contracts but flaunt their wealth.

For all that, “Iverson” (which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival) feels too often like a licensed-and-approved product, invariably putting the most favorable spin on Iverson’s behavior, from his shoot-first approach to playing point guard to his frustration with the media over asking him about missed practices. Yes, Iverson was exasperated that they were talking about practice, not the game, but that doesn’t fully account for a me-first attitude that clearly made him something less than a coach’s dream.

While the documentary features plenty of other interview subjects, including former coach Larry Brown and 76ers owner Pat Croce, Iverson is largely left to tell his story on his own terms, illustrated with plenty of dazzling footage from his prime, before a series of trades that eventually led to his retirement. As a cultural document with ramifications beyond its star, “Iverson” is certainly worthwhile. It’s in its determination to let its namesake put the best spin on things where the film occasionally takes its eye off the ball.

TV Review: 'Iverson'

(Documentary; Showtime, Sat. May 16, 9 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Moore Management & Entertainment, 214 Films and Mandalay Sports Media.

Crew: Executive producers, Gary D. Moore, Mike Tollin; producers, Zatella Beatty, Stephen P. Perry, Ted Faye; camera, James Markham Hall Jr.; editor, Perry; music, Cori “Fader” Jacobs. 88 MIN.

With: With: Allen Iverson

More Film

  • 'Death Stranding' is a 'Playground of

    'Death Stranding' is a 'Playground of Possibilities,' Will Make You Cry

    The Thursday evening conversation between game-making auteur Hideo Kojima and “Walking Dead” actor Norman Reedus about highly-anticipated PlayStation 4 game “Death Stranding” was filled with interesting anecdotes, but little in the way of hard fact. Instead, Kojima made a promise of sorts to the audience and seemingly fans everywhere waiting for more news on the [...]

  • Trailer for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Entry

    Watch: Trailer for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Entry ‘Song Without a Name’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — Peru’s La Vida Misma and Paris-based sales agent Luxbox have dropped the first trailer and poster of Melina Leon’s “Canción sin nombre” (“Song Without a Name”), selected this week for the Cannes Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight. Written by Leon and Michael J. White, “Song Without a Name” sums up some of ambitions and focus [...]

  • 'Aladdin,' 'Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,' 'Shaft' Set

    'Aladdin,' 'Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,' 'Shaft' Set for China Debuts

    Disney’s new live-action “Aladdin” will release in China on May 24, day-and-date with North America, giving the studio a run of three films in Chinese theaters as many months.  Two other Hollywood titles will also hit the big screen in the Middle Kingdom in the coming months: “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” on May 10 and the [...]

  • Patrimonio

    Film Review: 'Patrimonio'

    Though it never really went away on much of the globe, a sort of creeping feudalism is making such a striking comeback — with the ever-more-fabulously-rich squeezing the poor of every dime and resource — that Lisa F. Jackson and Sarah Teale’s documentary “Patrimonio” feels like a frightening portent. Will such crude appropriations of land [...]

  • Fan Bingbing

    Fan Bingbing Starts to Re-Emerge Months After Tax Scandal

    Half a year after she was found guilty of tax fraud and disappeared from the public eye, Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing has begun to signal her comeback, attending a gala event and launching her own beauty product on social media this week. The 37-year-old actress unexpectedly hit the red carpet in Beijing on Monday at [...]

  • I Trapped the Devil

    Film Review: 'I Trapped the Devil'

    “I Trapped the Devil” sounds like the title of a sermon or gospel song, but it’s a very literal-minded statement coming from the mouth of a leading character in writer-director Josh Lobo’s debut feature. This being a horror film, there’s a chance he’s even literally correct, rather than simply mad. A mixed-bag frightfest, IFC’s limited [...]

  • American Factory

    Tribeca Film Review: 'American Factory'

    When the last truck rolled off the assembly line of the General Motors factory outside Dayton, Ohio, filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert were there to film it, documenting the end of a certain American dream, along with the unemployment of more than 2,000 people — down from 6,000 in more prosperous times. That was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content