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Remarks on "Only the Strong Survive"

Larry Platt characterizes his book as "an originally reported part bio, part meditation on the phenomenon that is Allen Iverson." In the interests of full disclosure, perhaps he should have added "by an admirer." Platt regards Iverson as not only a spectacularly talented basketball player, which he certainly is, but also a fellow whose determination to "keep it real" makes him something of a role model for "the generation of youth that came of age during the Reagan eighties," the four "elements" of which, according to Platt, are "basketball, rap, dope dealing, and the ethic of 'getting paid.'"

It strikes me that lots of "youth," even some of those who shared the disadvantages that characterized Allen Iverson's childhood, might take issue with Larry Platt's list of "elements." In any case, for Platt, Iverson's decision to wear his hair in corn rows, to record his own rap, and to pay the monstrous room service and telephone bills of his pals from home who apparently have nothing better to do than travel around the country and party with Iverson, are all heroic stances.

There are some potential contradictions here. Platt characterizes Iverson as a sort of anti-Michael Jordan, "this upstart...who didn't seem interested in repackaging himself in order to garner white, suburban acceptance." On the other hand, Platt himself reports that seventy percent of the rap music sold is gobbled up by white, suburban kids because, as Platt suggests, "hip hop offers a safe and authentic travelogue to another culture." Maybe. Or maybe the kids just like the beat and the illicit kick of the four letter words. In any case, Reebok certainly isn't paying Iverson fifty million dollars over ten years to sell sneakers that cost over one hundred dollars a pair exclusively to inner-city basketball players. If he's a rebel, he's a rebel participating in the creation of a lucrative media image; a rebel with a decidedly corporate cause.

Larry Platt's response can be assumed, perhaps, from the book's epilogue. "Allen Iverson has become a walking, breathing, legacy born of the O.J. case," he writes. "Where you fall on Iverson depends on where you have invested yourself.

(And in all likelihood, you invested yourself long before Iverson came onto your radar.)"

This program aired on November 16, 2002. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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