Allen Iverson's face was stoic, his voice unwavering. But the tears in his mother's eyes revealed the raw emotion of the moment.
``My family needs me right now,'' Iverson said Wednesday as he confirmed that he is forgoing his final two college basketball seasons at Georgetown to make himself available for June's NBA draft. ``I have an opportunity to take care of them.''
Iverson, an All-America guard, said the needs are twofold. His youngest sister, 4-year-old Iiesha, suffers from seizures and needs specialized medical treatment; his 1-year-old daughter, Tiaura, also needs financial support.
``I didn't like the things going on back in Hampton with my mom and my sisters' living situation,'' Iverson said. ``I think that really pushed me out.''
Georgetown coach John Thompson said Iverson's family needs make this the ``right decision, for sure. ... I think Allen, if he had a choice, would stay at Georgetown University. I would love for him to stay.''
Thompson blamed Iverson's dilemma on ``antiquated'' NCAA rules that prevent universities from helping scholarship athletes with financial hardships. He said the natural place for Iverson to find help for Iiesha would have been at Georgetown's renowned hospital, ``but that's not anything we would have been able to do.''
Like former Georgetown stars Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning, Iverson has signed a contract with David Falk, the powerful agent who also represents Michael Jordan and Juwan Howard, among others. Signing with an agent makes Iverson's decision irrevocable; he can not regain college eligibility.
Thompson said Falk and Nike CEO Phil Knight told Iverson that he would have been more marketable after four seasons of college experience. But Falk said he believes Iverson will be among the first five players selected in the draft, which under the terms of the NBA rookie salary cap would guarantee Iverson a three-year contract worth at least $5.13 million.
Falk said he immediately will begin pursuing endorsement opportunities for Iverson in the basketball shoe industry and beyond. Asked if those opportunities might include singing, an Iverson hobby, Falk deferred to Thompson.
``If he stops playing basketball, his singing career won't be worth a damn,'' Thompson said in the lightest moment of a 35-minute news conference at Georgetown's campus gymnasium. ``I told him Muhammad Ali's jokes were only funny when he could box.''
Iverson said he did not realize that his recent use of a $130,000 Mercedes Benz was a possible violation of NCAA rules. He said he made his decision to turn pro a couple of weeks ago, and that decision makes any NCAA rules questions insignificant.
Iverson is the first Georgetown underclassman in Thompson's 24 seasons as head coach to leave early for the NBA, but Thompson said he had no worries about Iverson's ability to survive in the rugged NBA.
``But I'm scared as hell about the other 22 hours, when he's not playing those two hours,'' Thompson said. ``He's got to deal with'' the emotional and psychological demands of life as a professional athlete.
``Things are going to be difficult in the beginning,'' Iverson said. ``If I have any problems, he'll be the first guy I'll call. I don't know everything about the NBA ... but I have a lot of confidence in myself, in my game.''
Iverson came to Georgetown after his much-chronicled legal problems, and Ann Iverson said, ``I'm really grateful to Coach Thompson and his staff. They made my little boy a man.''
Iverson, who said he plans to continue pursuing his degree at Georgetown, was named national Freshman of the Year and Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a college rookie.
But he improved dramatically as a sophomore. He increased his scoring average from 20.4 to a Big East-best 25.0 and improved his shooting accuracy from 39 to 48 percent.
Iverson, whose 3-point shooting percentage went from 23.2 to 36.6, also made better decisions on the court, harnessing his racehorse pace to accommodate his teammates. He was a consensus first-team All-American this past season and again was voted the Big East's defender.
With Iverson at the controls, Georgetown finished 21-10 in 1995, losing to North Carolina in the NCAA Southeast Regional semifinals. The Hoyas were 29-8 in '96, losing to Massachusetts in the East Regional title game. Prior to Iverson, Georgetown had not made consecutive regional semifinal appearances since 1984 and '85.
Those teams were led by Patrick Ewing, whose framed NBA jersey, along with those of 12 other Georgetown alums, served as an appropriate backdrop to Iverson's announcement.
``My immediate family requires that I leave Georgetown,'' Iverson said. ``But I'll always be part of the Georgetown family.''
Thompson said he offered Iverson one piece of advice: ``Don't look back.''Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun