USA Home Video presents
Allen Iverson: The Answer (2002)
"They list him at six feet, and folks, that is an exaggeration. He'd have to stand on the Manhattan telephone book to be six feet."- Brent Musberger
Stars: Allen Iverson
Other Stars: Larry Brown, Pat Croce, John Thompson, David Stern, Aaron McKie, Vince Carter, Reggie Miller, Shaquille O'Neal
Director: Michael Winik and Peter Winik
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 55m:25s
Release Date: 2002-02-05
DVD ReviewPhiladelphia 76ers star guard Allen Iverson is in many ways the fantasy of armchair hoopsters, and I readily cop to being one. We know that we're not as intimidating a presence as Shaquille O'Neal, or lack the lanky moves and wingspan of Kobe Bryant, or just the general gigantism of Dikembe Mutombo or Tim Duncan or Chris Webber. But at six feet and 160 pounds, Iverson is the little man's dream, the undersized player who is both fearless and successful in taking it to the big men. Unfortunately, Allen Iverson—The Answer isn't nearly as dynamic as its subject, though it works well as an extended highlight reel. Ostensibly an inside look at Iverson, it's little more than a cut-and-paste job of SportsCenter-style clips interspersed with a limited amount of biographical information and unrevealing interviews. But Iverson's play is spectacular enough that it redeems some of the shortfalls here. Iverson's life is chronicled, from his birth to a 15-year-old mother in 1975, to his run-ins with the law as an adolescent, to his years at Georgetown, and then on to the NBA. He was a two-sport star in high school, excelling not only at basketball but on the football field, too, and he says that football remains his true passion. This production from NBA Entertainment unsurprisingly gives short shrift to the serious legal problems Iverson faced before college—without even specifying the nature of the incident, Iverson says merely that "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," and the narrator offers: "Shockingly, Allen was convicted and sent to prison." His conviction was overturned four months later by the Governor of Virginia, but unless you followed the case at the time, this disc is completely unilluminating. But back to the hardwood. We see Iverson under the tutelage of former Georgetown coach John Thompson; Iverson left college after his sophomore year, and was the first pick in the 1996 NBA draft, by Philadelphia. (Again, it's a funny change of pace to see a lottery pick who doesn't dwarf NBA Commissioner David Stern.) Here we get the first glimpse of former Sixers President Pat Croce, who gets almost as much face time here as Iverson; he doesn't seem like a particularly bright or nice man, but you almost get the sense that the producers of the discs don't trust their principal subject. Which is a shame, because when he is interviewed, Iverson is engaging and insightful. Since this is little more than a valentine to Iverson, it's no surprise that the less charitable side of Iverson is pretty much glossed over. The disc also suffers from the current NBA disease of promoting individual players at the expense of teams: "It's Shaq versus MJ! The Mailman against the Big Dog!" Um, no. This isn't boxing; basketball is a team sport. So there's barely a peep here from Iverson's teammates, and while the narration is happy to trot out Iverson's awards, little mention is made of the fact that Iverson's first Sixers teams were awful. He shot first and asked questions later; his team lost and watched the playoffs on TV with the rest of us. (A sportswriter quotes Charles Barkley on the young star's selfishness: "It's me, myself and Iverson." Come back, Sir Charles. All is forgiven.) Soon we're into the father-son drama of Iverson with new Sixers head coach Larry Brown. The team is remade around the young star; every single player who was on the team when he was drafted is gone. Brown and Iverson continue to butt heads, to the point where Iverson was almost traded to Detroit in the summer of 2000; but when they're on the same page, the team hums, and marches into the NBA finals. The series between Philadelphia and the Toronto Raptors makes Toronto start Vince Carter out to be Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan all in one, and his vanquishing by Iverson is the apex of the drama. Inconveniently, after a stirring first-game victory, Philadelphia got pretty much dismantled by the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals, so the conclusion of the disc is unsatisfying. One of the brightest sections on the DVD is a series of man-in-the-street interviews with Philadelphians, about the star of their basketball team—it's guys from the neighborhood chowing down on cheese steaks and praising Iverson, and it's winning stuff. It makes you hungry for more, in fact. (And not just for cheese steaks.) For instance: Iverson's arms, chest and neck are festooned with many, many tattoos. What do they say? What do they signify? Or: he wears a cast-like sleeve on his right arm, presumably to protect him from injury. Did he hurt himself? What's this all about? Instead of getting inside Iverson's world, there's an effort to give him the NFL Films treatment; but the narrator, Keith David, doesn't have the pipes to do a John Facenda-style frozen-tundra-of-Lambeau-Field job, and he's saddled with weak copy like: "Iverson had taken his rookie season and made it into one big scrapbook."
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The game footage varies in quality, from network glossy for the NBA to shaky handheld video for the younger Iverson. The interviews aren't shot with any particular panache, and the transfer to DVD is workmanlike.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is acceptable, though the volume varies in peculiar ways—the music over the menus, for instance, will blow you out of the room, but the scoring for some of the extras is muted to the point of occasional inaudibility. The Dolby mix doesn't provide a "You Are There" feeling, but is warm and well balanced.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Extras Review: The five featurettes are a grab bag of still more Iverson; some of them were wisely left out of the feature, and others seem merely like some hastily cobbled-together footage. Allen the Football Star (02m:54s) expands on Iverson's high school career on the gridiron, with his coaches saying he had the skills to be a quarterback in the mode of Michael Vick, or a secondary player on par with Deion Sanders. (Iverson had seven interceptions in one high school game.) Allen and Isiah—The Showmen (06m:03s) is a pretty clumsy comparison between Iverson and retired Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas; their principal similarity is their size, but Thomas never scored like Iverson, who looks to shoot before he passes. (There's still more Pat Croce here, and a glimmer of the one-time most hated man in basketball and Thomas's teammate, the repellent Bill Lambier.) Rookie Record: Four Straight 40-Point Games (01m:43s) is self-explanatory, though it seems to have been lopped out of a longer program, perhaps a This Week In The NBA-style feature. Allen's Top Ten Plays (03m:18s) features computer graphics with the countdown of the highlights, but no context or commentary.A. I. and Reebok (03m:18s) is little more than an infomercial, featuring Iverson hawking shoes, talking about hawking shoes ("I'll never forget this shoe, because it's my first shoe"), and at a press conference with the Reebok brass.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThis is a reasonably slick DVD geared for unquestioning Iverson fans, and in terms of hoops highlights, I suppose it delivers the goods. Certainly we could have gotten a better sense of Iverson; but this is propaganda, really, not journalism. Still, when you look at the title, Allen Iverson: The Answer, you may be wondering: Just what was the question?
Jon Danziger 2002-02-06