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Allen Iverson Was Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison at the Age of 17 — inside His Legal Issues

Oyin Balogun
Sep 04, 2020
10:30 A.M.

Former basketball champion, Allen Iverson, hit a rough patch in his teenage years, receiving a 15-year sentence at seventeen. The incident, believed to have resulted from racial prejudice, threw the then-teenager in the throes of legal issues, which remains a widely explored subject to date.


The documentary, "No Crossover: The Trial Of Allen Iverson" explored a pressing societal problem through the eyes of famous basketball star, Allen Iverson. It dwelt on the former pro basketballer's legal struggles at seventeen following an altercation with a group of white folks.

Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson sharing a laugh during the former's Spade Tournament at The One Eighty in February 2016. | Photo: Getty Images

Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson sharing a laugh during the former's Spade Tournament at The One Eighty in February 2016. | Photo: Getty Images

The incident led to the icon's arrest and subsequent sentencing to fifteen years imprisonment. Although many believed the sentence was harsh for the teenager, and a result of racial prejudice, the teenager served part of his jail-time before his conviction was overturned.

Notwithstanding, the resulting impact of the legal feud and judgment bias would live with Iverson and the community for several lifetimes.




Iverson grew up in Hampton, Virginia, in a neighborhood plagued with poverty and violence. One summer, he became caught up in a fight in a bowling alley that changed his life forever. The icon was seventeen at the time.

The brawl, which happened on Valentine's day, 1993, was a crash of the black folks and the white community in the racially diversified Hampton. Iverson allegedly started the fight by attacking a white man for using racial epithets to qualify the high school basketball star and his friends. The man claimed to have been minding his business when the teenager came at him.

The prosecution also wrongly accused Iverson of hitting a white girl over the head with a chair. They claimed to have video evidence of the moment but never presented it in court.

Allen Iverson receives interview during rehearsal for 2018 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival on November 10, 2018 in Shanghai, China. I Image: Getty Images

Allen Iverson receives interview during rehearsal for 2018 Double 11 Global Shopping Festival on November 10, 2018 in Shanghai, China. I Image: Getty Images



Despite being seventeen, the court tried inversion as an adult, also extending the case until he turned eighteen to pass the final verdict. Following a racially biased trial, the court sentenced Allen Inversion to five years each, on three felony counts of maiming by mob.

Interestingly, his charge was based on a law passed in Virginia to protect the black community from anti-racial lynching, which was rampant after the civil war.


The statute allowed the court to prosecute the suspect for being present at the time of commission, whether or not evidence pointed to his involvement.

Judge Nelson Overton, who sentenced the then-teenager, suspended two of the three terms following a plea from the defendant. Therefore, Iverson was required to serve at least ten months in a detention facility with good behavior.



Allen Iverson's prison sentence required him to spend the first few months at the Hampton City Jail, eligible for transfer only after an appeal eighteen weeks later.

However, notable leaders of the black community, including Spike Lee and Bill Cosby, soon took an interest in Iverson's case. They organized rallies and pushed for his freedom until eventually, he received a pardon from the then-governor of Virginia, who was coincidentally the first black governor in the state.


The appeal court also overturned his conviction for lack of sufficient evidence. Surrounding circumstances and how the events unveiled led to the belief that the Virginian community was simply using the teenager as a scapegoat to pass a message to the rest of the black community.

That belief was backed by the fact that while Iverson and two of his black friends got convicted, none of the white parties involved in the brawl faced a prison sentence.


The basketball legend ended up spending only four months of his sentence. Those four months, however, were enough to teach him invaluable life lessons.

The star has been open about his time in prison, and how rather than make it a weakness, he harnessed the experience as something positive. According to Iverson, he kept pushing strong until he eventually gained his freedom.



Following his release, Allen Iverson had several restrictions, including ineligibility to play his beloved basketball or accept a scholarship. This lasted until he obtained his high school diploma from Richard Milburn High School for at-risk students.

After high school, he got into Georgetown University on a full scholarship. He played college basketball as the star player of the Georgetown Hoyas team. After completing his sophomore year, the athlete declared for the NBA draft in 1996.


Philadelphia 76ers selected him as their first overall pick, and played for the team until 2006. He later joined the Denver Nuggets, where he remained for two years. The Nuggets dealt him to the Detroit Pistons in 2008.

A year later, he signed a one-year contract with the Memphis Grizzles, after which he made a triumphant return to the 76ers. He had a brief run with the Besiktas before his official retirement in 2013.

During his years as a professional basketballer, Allen Iverson proved himself as one of the greatest players of all time. He achieved several career-defining feats along the line and led his various teams to victory.



While excelling in his basketball career, Inversion also devoted time to building a family. He married his high school sweetheart, Tawanna Turner, in New Jersey. Tawanna and Allen Iverson's union yielded five children, including Tiaura, Allen II, Isaiah, Messiah, and Dream.

In 2010, Allen Iverson's wife filed for a divorce. She also sought sole custody of their children in addition to child support and alimony. They finalized the divorce in 2013.

Weeks after the divorce, Iverson revealed he and Tawanna were back together. They have remained a couple ever since; however, there is no news on whether the pair ever remarried.



After retiring from basketball, the former NBA star settled down with Tawanna and his children in North Carolina and Georgia.

Allen Iverson, now 45, stands as a cultural icon in the world of basketball. In the last few years, the icon has focused on family while trying to stay away from the spotlights. He also went through a period of being broke, spurring media attention and concern from his former teammates.

Being the resilient icon, he managed to live through the moments, but the tolls of his legal escapades during his basketball career is not as easy to leave behind.

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