By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
As a part of ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series, Tuesday, April 13, viewers saw the premier of No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson directed by Steve James. The documentary takes an in-depth look at NBA legend Allen Iverson's hometown of Hampton, Virginia and how it was rocked by the happenings of the "Bowling Alley Brawl," where a seventeen year old Iverson was convicted of a felony charge when he hit a girl over the head with a chair after an argument with a group of white people.
His conviction erupted into a race battle that has had lasting effects on the town of Hampton. Filmmaker Steve James goes on to interview various residents of the town who were peers of the high school phenom and those who worked on the Iverson case.
It only took a few minutes to realize where this case was going and James did a brilliant job building up the audience's anticipation of what would happen to Hampton after Iverson was put in jail. The trial showed that there was no clear, undeniable evidence that Iverson hit this girl with a chair. A short video clip taken from the alley was grainy enough and impossible to decipher anyone's identity but Iverson was somehow picked out in the crowd of almost thirty people. Sure enough, the audience's assumptions were proven true, as the case became the publicity stunt and a large-scale racial battle that the town feared.
A majority of African Americans supported Iverson and majority of the whites supported the group that antagonized Iverson and his friends at the bowling alley. The fact that the judge who sentenced Iverson to five years in prison on the words of a group of white kids saying they all recognized Iverson enraged the African American community. The fact that the African American community was enraged and began to speak out in support of Iverson seemed to enrage the white community. It seemed like it was 1947 all over again in the heartland of the south as an African American man, though he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, was convicted and ultimately suffered for a fraction of his sentence simply because it was a case of "he said, she said," and the words of a group of white people against a group of African Americans.
Iverson only suffered for a fraction of a sentence because of a stroke of luck and the evidence that racism was still alive and well in 1993 when newly appointed African American governor Douglas Wilder pardoned Iverson and set him free after four months. This raises the question of where would Allen Iverson had been if Wilder wasn't appointed governor?
James does a fantastic job telling the story exactly how it appeared. In something as delicate as racial issues, the documentary gives both sides arguments, though most of the feature is shown through the eyes of the African American community. To the younger generation of America who grew up only seeing the glamorous side of Allen Iverson's life, it seems that James does them a favor by showing them that everyone has their dark sides, it just depends on what situation can bring it out. The fact that racism is still around today is a truly frightening fact and using the experiences of a future NBA Hall of Famer puts into perspective that no one is big enough to