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Not a Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson Hardcover – Jun 2 2015

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (June 2 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476737657
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476737652
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #197,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A searingly honest and intimate portrait of a captivating icon, but also a cautionary tale for any young star. Kent Babb captures the complexity of Allen Iverson from all angles in a fascinating must-read for all sports fans." (Baxter Holmes, ESPN NBA reporter)

“Allen Iverson was impossible to ignore, a one man hurricane, on the court and off; equal parts dynamic and depressing. With Not a Game Kent Babb brilliantly tells his story and it's a tour de force like AI himself.” (Dan Wetzel, National Columnist, Yahoo Sports and New York Times bestselling author)

“Babb’s thorough storytelling empathetically ebbs and flows between Iverson’s trials and triumphs, connecting the dots while taking the reader on an emotional truth-seeking ride of nostalgia, hope, and exasperation . . . . Not a Game is engrossing and definitely to be read and discussed.” (Shana Renee Stephenson, founder and editor-in-chief,

“Allen Iverson’s is a life unfathomable to most. With Not a Game, Kent Babb questions the enigma that is The Answer, taking readers into a world most don’t know — and, quite frankly, most don’t want to know — exists in America.” (John Valenti, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and author of Swee’pea, the story of New York City basketball legend Lloyd Daniels)

"For better or worse, Allen Iverson has the uncompromising "my way" persona. Kent Babb eloquently, and at times poignantly, captures Iverson's swagger—raw and flawed, regal yet real." (Benjamin Hochman, sports columnist, The Denver Post)

“This is more than just great sports writing, this is writing at its best. Babb strips away the public persona of iconic superstar Allen Iverson to tell a stunning story of triumph, tribulation and ultimate tragedy. It’s a must-read about a complex hero who had it all for too short a time.” (R.G. Belsky, author of The Kennedy Connection and The Midnight Hour)

"Babb delves deep into Iverson’s inscrutable soul. This is a sad but fascinating read.” (Publishers Weekly)

“It pricks the skin and provokes a response.” (The Washington Post)

About the Author

Kent Babb is a Sports Enterprise Writer at The Washington Post, which he joined in October 2012. His work was included in the 2013 edition of The Best American Sports Writing, and his long-form journalism has been honored eight times by the Associated Press Sports Editors, including first place in feature writing in 2005 and 2010.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 71 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Book Reveals an Ugly Side of Iverson Aug. 1 2015
By Eddie Smith - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When this book came out in early June, it received lots of press in the Philadelphia media for the chapter discussing Allen Iverson's famous practice rant. In a larger sense, though, Kent Babb's searing biography of Iverson paints an ugly picture of the player as a mean drunk with a severe alcohol problem. Iverson burned through $150 million in his career and still drinks Coronas to excess nearly every day of his life at T.G.I. Fridays and P.F. Changs because that is "exotic" beer to him.

The book felt like a combination of Mickey Mantle meets Mike Tyson. Like Mantle, Iverson was a Hall of Fame player in his sport, yet he remains an undependable alcoholic whose greatness could have been even more amazing. Like Tyson, Iverson burned through a staggering amount of wealth while being bled dry by moochers and hangers on.

The book does include somewhat shocking stories of a destitute Iverson calling up ex teammates and asking to borrow money by 2011 and violent fights with his wife, Tawanna, that included chasing her around Philadelphia with a gun and vowing to either "...die or I'm going to jail. And I guarantee you I'm not going to die." But it is the "We talkin' 'bout practice" rant that is seemingly the most fascinating part of the book.

I am a huge fan of playing low-level poker, and Atlantic City was where I first heard that the genesis for the practice rant was that Iverson was an alcoholic who would keep vampire hours and frequently drink to excess in A.C. until 8-9 a.m., then be unable to make practice a few hours later. The Babb book confirms that Iverson was drunk during the rant. It blows my mind that a guy could miss 70 practices in one year. The excuses became so laughable that Sixers coach Larry Brown kept a running tally in his office for how many times each member of Iverson's family was sick or how often Iverson would have car troubles and be unable to attend practice. At the end, Brown got to the point where he was indifferent to whether or not Iverson came to practice because he was such a colossal pain in the *** when he would show up at practice too hung over to do anything or still drunk from the night before.

Babb's book talks about 76ers general manager Billy King standing off-camera a few feet from Iverson during the practice rant and contemplating whether or not he should just walk in front of the cameras and end the press conference. Former 76ers team President Pat Croce, who was instrumental in the team drafting Iverson, was watching the press conference at home and turned the channel once he realized Iverson was drunk and ranting. Croce sandbagged Brown into taking the 76er job by telling the coach that Iverson was an "angel" and that the two of them would get along splendidly.

Throughout the book, Babb wrestles with whether or not Iverson is a bad guy who occasionally does some good things or a good guy who just never grew up or was forced to take responsibility for his actions. In addition to many stories about Iverson coming home so drunk that he would frequently urinate on the floor (if he came home at all) and being so apathetic to his five children that he did not even know where they went to school, the book contains stories of incredible acts of kindness from Iverson such as kicking back his daily per diem to Sixers equipment personnel and the lifelong bond he has formed with the Georgetown medical trainer, Lorrie Michel.

Babb went through a litany of events that Iverson no showed, even going so far as to sit at a bar and get drunk rather than attend his own basketball camp that charged middle school campers $225 a head to supposedly meet Iverson. In the end, though, Babb offers at least a fleeting hope that Iverson can salvage the rest of his life. Larry Brown left Philadelphia because he had grown tired of dealing with Iverson, but the coach continues to reach out to the star player, just to see how he is doing and if the awful stories he has heard recently are really true. It was Brown who used his connections with 76ers management to get the team to bring Iverson back for a swan song in 2010. Ultimately, though, Iverson screwed up his last chance in the NBA by remaining unreliable.

In the book's epilogue, Babb continues to wrestle with his feelings about Iverson, an irresponsible alcoholic prone to acts of incredible kindness. "The point was not that he was [either good or bad,] a friend or a headache." wrote Babb. "A caring family man or an overgrown child without regard for responsibility, an astonishing success or a man who lost it all. He was both."

Personally, I never had illusions that Iverson was a saint. But he certainly comes across as less likable than he was before I read Babb's book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Dec 8 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Besides the pre and post-game interviews; the magazine covers and sneaker endorsements; the debates that consumed gym periods and barbershop visits; besides playing Live--when it was good--and 2K into the twilight hours of the night, it never occurred to me that the players I watched--crossing over, stepping back, pulling up and taking off--were actually people. This may strike some of you as absurd: "Well of course they're people, they don't just play basketball all day." While this is undoubtedly true--that athletes are undoubtedly human--what's also true is that we seldom reckon with the humanity of athletes until they lose. By lose, I don't mean the sacrifices these players make and the inevitable loss that goes with it; I mean the collateral damage we feel when we can no longer use them for our own ends. It isn't until their ratings in 2K drop, or they're battling injury after injury, or their bank accounts are depleted, or they've falling deeper and deeper into the abyss of the depth chart, or found unconscious on the floor of a Nevada brothel that we realize that these players have interior lives that continue long after the last buzzer. Kent Babb's Not a Game is a critical investigation into the other 22 hours of a life more complex than cornrows, crossovers and diatribes about practice. "In the late 90s, America was undergoing an interesting cultural shift. It's heroes were no longer who wore ties and obeyed the rules." With so many questions about how rebellion would look and live in this generation, Allen Iverson provided himself as the "Answer," refusing to back down from any defender, double-team or NBA legend. But every answer is coupled with its own conundrums, Iverson notwithstanding: "The point was not that he was one or the other: a friend or a headache, a caring family man or an overgrown child without regard for responsibility, an astonishing success or a man who lost it all. He was both." This book regards Iverson as more than a problematic athlete who "lost it all." It's a sincere look into a complicated life we ceased regarding when regulation ended. Brilliant read
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!! June 2 2015
By Jocquelle Caiby - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I truly enjoyed Not a Game because of its story-like feel. Most biographies seem like merely a well put together list of facts but this book has a one of a kind voice and flow. Also, as a longtime Allen Iverson fan I have often yearned for a more in depth look at his life. NBA fans across the world know and love Allen Iverson for his rebellious attitude, his trademark braids, and unique style. Most of all we were magnetized by the undeniable heart and unparalleled drive he exhibited each and every time he stepped on a basketball court. Many fans, however, will also recall Iverson’s unceremonious downfall, contributed to by a plaguing alcohol addiction and a propensity for playing by his own rules, both on and off the court. What lies beneath these images, the untold story, has always been something I, and presumably many other fans, have felt a need for.

Kent Babb’s Not a Game provides this story and more by depicting both sides of Allen Iverson’s life, beginning with his troubled childhood in Virginia and his first athletic achievements, leading to his inelegant departure from the NBA, his dwindling fortune, and the ongoing conflict between he and his wife. This book is a poignant reminder of Iverson’s charms and all the ways he endeared himself to the public. Iverson fans will picture him at his best, envisioning his captivating smile and many nuances, and reliving his greatest moments. They will also feel the pangs of seeing their once beloved superstar essentially sabotaging his own future, and the lack of effort of those closest to him to steer him in the right direction. The hope will remain that somewhere in the pages of this book Iverson will come to his senses and make out all right. Not a Game is a must read for anyone looking for the untold story of Allen Iverson, and also for those intrigued by how celebrity can often prevent us from fully acknowledging the flaws of our favorite superstars.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book is on point June 4 2015
Format: Hardcover
one of the Greatest NBA Players ever and a Man who truly broke the odds and so many things that came down the line with him. this book will take you and off the court with him
and i don't think the book will sway you one way or the other if you are cool with him or in different.iverson was tough and a complex figure and yet he was that real is real personality. a deep read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most tragic accounts of a career I've ever read. Aug. 1 2016
By Lawrenceb56 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is well written if slightly overlong--but the subject is what makes this one of the better sports bio's I've read in a long time. Allen Iverson is infuriating, but at the same time--even after reading of all of the awful things he has done to loved ones, coaches, teammates and (let's face it) nearly everyone he came into contact with during his career and after, I truly wish the best for him and hope he turns his life around and turns himself into someone he can live with. I was never a fan, but absolutely loved watching this kid play and develop. I saw him as extremely overrated by the Eastern Press bias and also saw him as a bit of a loser because he hardly ever made his team better, but tore it up from the inside by his erratic and crazy behavior and lifestyle. And yet----as so many who came into contact with him seemed to think--there was a certain spark to this guy and you constantly found yourself thinking that there was a good guy underneath the bs. He shows glimpses of it once in awhile (as every jerk tends to do) but you find yourself wishing he could rid himself of the hangers on and the Hampton that always seemed to drag him back in a downward direction. In Babbs telling, you will find almost unfathomable accounts of a spoiled rotten athlete, but so much of this has to be tempered with his background, a mother who was almost as selfish as the son he raised and good people who simply would not set limits or draw the line until they had squeezed every bit of benefit they themselves could derive. I truly hope that people have learned something from the tragedy that is Allen Iverson--and I hope that Allen uses the remainder of his time on earth to turn his life around for his own sake, the sake of his children and of those who sincerely tried to help him.