Questions About "the Answer"
While Iverson, who became known as "The Answer," was developing a reputation for his lightening speed and cross-over drill that could break down most defenses, he was also receiving his share of negative attention. On the court Iverson was criticized for selfish play and poor decision-making that led to off-balanced shots and turnovers. Critics pointed to Iverson's poor shooting percentage and large number of turnovers. Charles Barkley ruefully called him Allen Me-Myself-and-Iverson. He also came under fire for a perceived lack of respect for the NBA's veteran players. His cockiness and trash talk on the floor only added fuel to the fire. During his first years in the NBA, Iverson was notorious for missing practices, showing up late, and leaving early. His choice of clothes—baggy pants, pounds of gold jewelry, and a 'do rag'—fueled the media's talk of Iverson's past and annoyed his coach Larry Brown, who was also concerned about the friends Iverson chose to hang out with off the court.
The public's reaction to his attire, braided hair, and twenty-one tattoos frustrated Iverson. He told Sports Illustrated, "I got rows, but that don't mean I'm no gangbanger. I ain't never been in a gang. Why do people want to judge me like that?" For Iverson his appearance is simply part of who he is, and serves as a reminder that he will not forget where he came from. While the NBA establishment shakes its collective head in disbelief, Iverson is a hero and an idol to youth around the nation who don the same oversized clothes and braid their hair into rows. His endorsement of Reebok products was highly successful, and Reebok's signature Iverson shoe was a hot seller in the mid-1990s.
Although he insists that he has often been unfairly judged, Iverson's arrest in 1997 on marijuana and firearms charges did little to enhance his image. Iverson was pulled over for speeding, and the trooper discovered a marijuana cigarette and a .45-caliber pistol in the car. Iverson insisted that the joint belonged to the two other men in the car, but admitted that he had used very poor judgment.
By the end of the 1997-98 season Brown was fed up with his young star's poor work ethic, increasing focus on off-court matters such as his Reebok responsibilities, and his aspirations as a rap artist. Rumors began to circulate that a trade was in the works. Eventually Iverson and Brown, both known for their stubborn, determined natures, developed a working, if sometimes volatile, relationship, and in January of 1999 Iverson re-signed with the 76ers for $70.9 million over six years. "When I first got him, I couldn't tell him anything," Brown told Sports Illustrated. "He went crazy on the court. Now he'll listen a little bit." After winning the 1999 NBA scoring title with 26.8 points per game, in October of 2000 Iverson was once again the center of controversy when he released a single of a rap album he cut under his artist name Jewelz. "40 Bars" came under fire for numerous derogatory references to women and gays. Eventually Iverson agreed not to release the full album.